Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How I Spent My Summer: Part I- HENRY!

Monday night Warren and I arrived back in Austin. For me it was a 22-day, 5,000 mile journey. For Warren it was a bit less. The short version of the itinerary looked like this:

  • Spike & Henry drive a Scion xb full of Henry's stuff to NJ.
  • Henry ditches Spike in NJ to visit her people.
  • Henry boldly drives to Brooklyn alone to empty the car of his stuff.
  • Warren flies to Philly to meet Spike.
  • Henry returns car.
  • Spike and Warren take off for the Great White North, etc.

Let's see, where did we go? Well, to borrow a metaphor and a quote from Joe, the protagonist in Ian McEwan's Enduring Love, "These were the stations of my cross." I didn't make a super conscious effort to revisit so many old haunts, but there was definitely a subconscious undercurrent pushing us along. When Henry was little there were many summers when I threw him in the back of a car-- sometimes without a/c-- and drove a route that either took us through St. Louis (to see his paternal people) or through Knoxville (the first place I got a job after college). Then we'd go on to Jersey.

This time around, because Henry was eager to start his new life in NYC, he and I made a beeline. Night One: Memphis. Night Two: Knoxville. Day Three: Jersey. To those of you we didn't not stop and say hello to, please forgive me. This trip was about so many things, and the internal landscape I needed to cover was at least as vast as the physical journey. I was trying, with only limited success, to gracefully let go of Henry, as he takes a next very big step in his life. He's lived independently for many years, yes-- for this I am proud and grateful and it was always my stated goal to raise an independent human. But now he no longer lives four blocks away, which was a lot to wrap my head around during the process of getting from point A(ustin) to point B(rooklyn).

This past summer, knowing he was preparing to leave, I'd find myself bursting into tears without warning. Driving home from Wheatsville, for example, where he and I have been going since we moved here when he was ten months old (21 years ago next week). I am so happy for him, so excited about the record, so thrilled at his amazing driving skills, so grateful for our road trip. Because covering a couple of thousand miles in the car with him, seeing and feeling that distance, was oddly comforting.

Analogy time: Anyone can go and buy a factory-made, machine-knitted scarf for four bucks at Target. It'll keep you warm and maybe even be pretty. A hand-knitted scarf is a project that, if you use the kind of yarn I do and knit as slowly as I do, can cost a lot, take a very long time and so- on at least the time/cost levels-- not be terribly efficient. And yet there's something about touching every single stitch. This is what it was like traversing all those miles in the car with my son. Yes, he could've flown up. But this was so much better.

Once Warren arrived we alternated between visiting super ancient haunts of my youth-- I'm talking to you, Wildwood, NJ-- and places we'd never been before. Or maybe that one of us had been to, but not the other. Or at least not together. Canada was stupendous and if you missed my FB post, here's something amazing about that place: people drive well and they drive nice and they USE THEIR TURN SIGNALS. It's like being in another country! Oh wait...

We had four arguments of note. I rarely if ever dissect relationship stuff publicly anymore but I just want to throw that out there, that yes, despite our individual and collective fabulousness, Warren and I, when we go on these monster trips, are a living, breathing, huffing, puffing example of why two people should never, ever spend 24/7 together for extended periods of time, and why it is so important to plan breaks along the way.

And yet. And yet we got through the hollering and-- I don't mean this in a Hallmarky way-- I think we might just be better off for it, though it's going to take a long time before I forget that part where, after I said (ala Thelma and Louise) that under no circumstances did I want to drive in New York, Warren navigated us into the heart of the Bronx at rush hour.

When I travel sometimes I journal and sometimes I don't. This was one of those times when I consciously did not take notes. I'll never really truly relax in my lifetime, but I'm getting slightly better at  easing up my death grip on certain "must dos" when traveling. Warren laughs recalling a week of beach camping we did where I had to tick X number of "relaxation activities" off my list every day in order to be satisfied, which of course is never actually as satisfying as one might hope.

I did take a lot of pictures. And as we went along I began to imagine a series of posts called How I Spent My Summer: X. The X might be Food or Architecture or People or Animals or -- of course-- YARN YARN AND MORE YARN!! So I think that's what I'll attempt to do here over the next week or so. Rather than present a chronology, I'll classify as I see fit.

That said, the first leg of the journey was all about Henry, and so for today's opening post, chronology and subject intersect. I spent a lot of time when Henry was little writing about his life. At a certain point, maybe when he was around 13, he asked me to stop. I have mostly honored that, with a few slip ups that he's forgiven me after the fact or even given me upfront permission to post when I asked. Today is one of those days where I hope he'll overlook my need to gush about him in public.  And so, herewith, a few shots. Stay tuned for How I Spent My Summer: Part II-- FOOD!

packing the Scion
Saying bye to Tatum, who is 13+ now, and who has been with us since Henry was 8 years old and she was a few months old.
Stopping by Big Red's house to say good-bye. 
Henry and Big Red -- the apple didn't fall far from the tree. Thank god he got his father's hips.
I bragged about Henry to an Elvis fan at Graceland. She insisted on his autograph. He embarrassingly obliged and did an elaborate signature. He confessed afterward, "Mom, I never signed my name like that before in my life."

Playing for a bit at the Heartbreak Hotel.

With Elvis. 
In Knoxville with Ollie and Charlie.

In Jersey with Mom-Mom.
I love my boy. 


Anne Rodgers said...

I lurves your blog! Thank you for posting.

janita said...

Great post! It is definitely a bittersweet time of life. I still miss my girls and they are 30 and 37!
BTW, Greta, my oldest has a restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn called Taco Chulo--Henry should stop in for a Mexican food fix.