This week we woke at about 5am Monday to the usual steady rain. We had a 10:30am flight to catch at PDX, and even though it’s typically an easy two hour drive, we worried about Monday morning rush hour mixed with rain induced calamities along Highway 6. It turned out that we gave ourselves plenty of time, but that didn’t mean the trip was easy. Allyson was amped up for the holiday travel, so she volunteered to make the dark, rainy, curvy drive through the coastal range to Portland. It was very rainy, and at the crest of the coastal range we even hit snow.
We were flying back to the South to begin a marathon of visits to friends and family over three states that would carry us into the next year. Digby was also joining us for his first flight. He didn’t seem to have any problems with the airplane, the pressure changes, the turbulence, or even the screaming babies. He hated the kennel he had to stay in, though. Our layover terminal in the Denver airport didn’t have a place to walk dogs, so he pooped in the middle of it. So, we had to scoop up some tootsie rolls with bathroom paper towels, but overall the trip was pretty typical.
We landed in Atlanta, and our good friend Danielle was waiting to meet us. As we waiting at the baggage carousel, an older man who worked for the airport came around to make announcements and sing Christmas carols to us. A few people started videoing with their phones, even asking the guy to sing again so they could catch everything. I find this practice pretty strange–it seems far-fetched that this dude is ever going to go back to this video and watch it again. I just listened and enjoyed that things seemed pretty cheery in a place that could easily be the opposite. This was a great way to kick off our holiday trip–the company of one of our best friends, strangers singing carols to us, everyone smiling at us because we have an awesome dog.
Dog’s are such a great ice breaker in public places. It’s so much easier to smile at someone with a dog. You don’t feel like people are creepy when they smile at you while you’re walking your dog. Dogs seem to make us friendlier. It was incredible how many people in the Atlanta airport asked us what breed Digby is. He is a mutt we got from an animal shelter, so there’s generally a complicated explanation that basically boils down to, “we aren’t completely sure, but we’re fairly certain he’s mostly some kind of terrier.” Most people can get on board with dog conversations. We know during the holidays we’re bound for uncomfortable conversations involving politics, current events, religion, other family members. But, get em talking about dogs–that’s gold.
I realized early-on this week that this trip would be about revisiting my childhood. I was going to the place where I grew up that I moved a few thousand miles away from nearly a year ago. But, something else would send me hurtling back to my younger days: the new Star Wars movie. I had spent the weekend re-watching the original trilogy, and I was amazed by how much these movies are ingrained in me, especially how they bring back feelings that seem to have been in me from the beginning. I was born the year after the first Star Wars movie. I was two when Empire Strikes Back premiered, and I was five for Return of the Jedi. It feels like I remember seeing each one as they were released, though. My memories of Star Wars seem as old as my oldest memories.
I don’t really feel like a Star Wars nerd. I don’t know the names of obscure characters who aren’t actually named in the movies. I haven’t read the books. I just watched these movies a lot as a kid and had a lot of Star Wars swag as a kid. It feels like it’s part of my own story. I didn’t absolutely hate the prequels, but they didn’t strike that nerve that the originals did. I went into the new movie as blind as possible with as few expectations as possible. I was happy this movie took a lot of care to do the things well that the originals did. It made me feel like I did as a kid, wrapped up in the story, the characters, the action. It nailed it. It was cool to see the movie with Danielle and her boyfriend Kyle who seemed to have similar feelings, and it was cool that Allyson humored us while really wanting to go see Sisters.
I had a lot of familiar feelings on arrival. There’s that unmistakable humidity in the air that was even present in December this time. There’s the gray sky backdrop with leafless trees in the foreground. These things aren’t just what they are to me. They trigger feelings from other times. The person I was back then. Star Wars did this. I recalled something inside that’s hard to explain. It’s the things I wondered, the things that got me excited, the things I wished for, the things I was insecure about, afraid of. It’s like a get a snippet of my state of mind, the state of my emotions. This happens with songs, with tasting something you used to eat, with going to a place you haven’t been to in a while.
We hitched a ride with our other good Atlanta resident friends Justin and Amanda, on their way to Kentucky. Allyson and I would part ways in Nashville. I joined my mom and dad to go to the house in Hardeman county where I did much of my growing up, while Allyson joined her parents in Murray for Christmas. There was, of course, a continuation of this visiting myself in the past. I got to see lots of family, eat lots of the usual family holiday dishes. But, in this case, all of us family members are changing. The children are growing. The ones of us called adults now have all taken on new challenges, and while we haven’t say we’ve been up to the same old stuff, I’m sure all of us feel like this year has brought things we didn’t expect, things that have tested in us ways few others understand or even know about. We gather in the kitchen around the table, share food, stories–we give each other affection one minute and playful ribbing the next. Something is happening here. In its best moments we are taking part in something that will mark ourselves for the future. Something here will stick with us and remind us a little about who we were. Hopefully, others here will grab a few things to hold onto as well.
The day after Christmas, I went to my grandmother’s house to visit and record her telling some of her memories of times long before I was born. It is amazing to think about the volumes that every person holds within them, all the stories, all the pictures, all the smells, all the feelings. We have so many people inside us at one time. I listened to my grandmother tell about growing up in the 40s, and thought about all the change she’s encountered in her life. I wonder what the world will feel like if I’m lucky enough to make it 80 years. I wonder what parts of me in this time in my life I’ll hold onto, what parts I’ll miss and want to revisit in memories.
We left Oregon this week after weeks of fairly steady rain. It was raining when we boarded our plane. When we stepped off in Atlanta, it was raining there. We had heard about unseasonably warm, beautiful, sunny days. Since arriving, we’ve seen thunderstorms, tornado watches, and flash floods. We joke that we just absorbed some of the Northwest weather and unleashed it upon arrival. I’ve absorbed a lot of things over these years. They get stored away sometimes, then can come back to the foreground with the right reminding. I’m revisiting so much this holiday. Seeing myself in so many ways, while still being who I am right now, while still trying to figure out who I am growing into being. I hope these parts that get shared turn out to be a good representation of the whole.