Revisiting the Past......... Maybe........ Maybe Not
Not so long ago I got a phone call from a good friend and her husband asking me if I'd like to go to Quebec for my birthday this year.......... I giggled. Quebec? How many years has it been? Six, six years since I embarked on what would be one of the worst trips I've ever taken, one of the most beautiful places I've ever been (barring the -30 temps), some of the best fun I've ever had, the end of a marriage, and the loss of my grandmother. Ten memorable days that left me breathless, disengaged, and devastated all at the same time, but I know why they asked, and I know why they've done exactly that for the last five years. Why would I ever really want to go back there? Then again, why wouldn't I?
I didn't say no, that would have been ridiculous, but yet, I didn't say yes. I'm procrastinating as usual. I'd rather spend my birthday in Alaska watching my son play hockey, spend it in a place I've never been, and may never have an excuse to visit again. I'd rather stay home with dogs, and yet again, if I could choose I'd be with my son, have my daughter join us there, but I don't have that choice. I have to say "no," the economy says "no," and my checkbook is screaming that very same word. So, do I go to Quebec? Do I go back and find out how far I've really come in the last seven years, or do I take the chance that what I believe I've overcome is still lurking inside waiting to knock the wind out of me just one more time.
I guess that part of that question was answered last night. I found myself thinking in bed; I never do that. When it's time to sleep; it's time to sleep. No thinking, no laying awake. If you're not going to sleep get up and do something. Things that keep you awake are the things that aren't good for you; nothing is worth the loss of sleep, and it's certainly not worth the way it makes you feeling in the morning. I now know I won't go back; I did that last night.
I lay back and remembered that trip, remembered the beauty of the Old City, and remembered the river that was crested in ice; it was so cold. I remembered the people I took that trip with, my friend Nancy covered head to toe in fur, Jeff in his newly purchased raccoon hat and Montreal sweater, Doug driving me around because my ex-husband was in a tirade, Todd keeping a wide berth because he was supposed to be traveling with my family, but my family had ceased to exist. My friend Dody standing in a hallway telling me I'd be fine, and Tracey opening up her hotel room for my son and I because we'd been thrown out of our own.
People bought my son and I dinner because everything I had had been taken away, they bought us many dinners; it was a long trip. Then I remembered standing in the lobby of the hotel, actually more than one hotel with my phone card shaking in between the fingers I couldn't control, making phone calls because my grandmother had a stroke; she was dying, and I couldn't see her; I couldn't leave, and I couldn't tell her goodbye. Even worse, I couldn't let my parents know that I was shaking, couldn't burden them with yet another thing they couldn't control, and all the while I knew that I would never have told them anyway.
My thoughts didn't stop there, and neither did the memories. I re-lived ten days in the space of just a few hours. I went to the rink, I got back into the van with the sweet old man who drove the players around town, the man who took my son and I to the hospital after my son was injured, and I remembered my ex-husband refusing to go with us, and then I remembered the old man's glance at me; the glance that said, "I'm so sorry." He needn't have been, the collar bone was broken, and it would heal, but the marriage was broken beyond repair, and my son and I stood alone. We stood like trees in a storm swaying in the onslaught of never ending inclement weather, but it was the man who created the onslaught that broke completely. He lost everything.
Sitting in the hospital I wished I'd taken French in high school; I didn't understand anything being said, but once we got back to the rink there were other things I'd never understand, things I never will. Seven years later I saw myself being thrown into the wall of a corridor I've never seen before, but I had seen it, and I did hit it. For the first time I've now seen the look on my son's face as his father grabbed me, and I know where the fierce protection he has for me comes from, the day it began. I now understand why the women who were with us surrounded me, and why the men surrounded us all. We were under attack, and yet we weren't because after that not one person left the perimeters of the walls they'd constructed to protect us; we were completely sheltered.
I don't go to bars, don't drink much ever, but I did go out that week. I would sit falling asleep at the table, all the while hating the noise and confusion, but no one would leave me behind, and I went because I didn't know what else to do. I had a great time during those evenings, and I admit that the "good times" don't make sense, but that's what they were. We continued to be tourists, albeit distracted ones; we saw every cathedral within 30 minutes of the city, but I admittedly really don't remember any of them. I'd find a pew and I'd sit, and then I'd cry. I cried for my grandma, and then I'd cry for my kids. One was with me, and one was going to school thousands of miles away while she cried for me, but I couldn't cry for myself; I couldn't even grasp that all of it was real. The violence had crept up too quickly, what had always been emotional abuse had now become physical, lines had been crossed, and I still wasn't sure where I was standing, or if I was standing at all.
So in the end, every question I could have asked was answered last night. I don't have to think about it, the thought of Quebec is intermingled with too many others, and it always will be. No, I don't want to go back; I've already been there, and my friends as thoughtful as they are need to know that I don't carry it with me; it's just there when prodded loose; it's just a few pages of my life, and you can't erase what's already been written. You can't re-write the past, you can't change the memories, and you can't let the past re-write your future. We write our futures every day.
The city of Quebec will continue to be exactly what it was, a helluva lot of fun, a time best past, and a place of endings and new beginnings. If I ever go back it will be to watch my son play, it will be the two of us there both together and separately. To go back without him is something I realize I'll never do; it is a part of both of our pasts; we lived it together. So if I do ever return it will be for the right reasons; corridors won't hold bad memories, they will stand before us empty and ready to make new ones. Hallways will be nothing more than hallways, hotels will be a place to sleep, and churches will be exactly what they are, a place of worship. The beauty of that city was never sullied by the happenings; I can find beauty in anything, even bad dreams. Birthdays are just dates, and if you're going to celebrate them, celebrate the future, celebrate beginnings, and leave the rest behind. We only get one life, we only get one birthday a year, and if you really, really think about it............ we get that everyday.
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