My cousin got married yesterday. He was married in the town where I grew up, although he and his lovely bride didn’t grow up or live anywhere near there.
They chose the location for it’s gorgeous views of mountains and the river valley.
My hometown is situated on the banks of the largest river in New York state, though you wouldn’t know it growing up there.
Then, we didn’t dare go down to the river. It was home to small industrial companies and old local bars. We were told to stay away as it was considered the wrong side of town.
The river for us, was simply something we crossed to get anywhere east of our home and back again.
It had been many years since leaving this little town. Once I moved away for college, I rarely lived there again. In the ensuing years my mom would die in our house, in front of me, and after that I would visit my dad only when necessary and with an air of business, coming and going very quickly. In and out, with blinders on. When he moved out about seven years ago, I left childhood memories languishing in that little town by the river.
What is it they say about the healing powers of time?
Does a repeated action entrench itself in a person after decades of doing it? Because crossing my favorite small bridge yesterday on the way to the wedding, still felt like going home.
There was something physical about it. It felt just as it did all those times growing up. Returning home after a day away, or when I was older driving home after a night out with my good friend who lived directly across the river.
Memories bubbled up wherever I looked.
My friend, Joan, lived up that road. She used to work in that deli. Amazing, it’s still here.
We drove past my best friend’s house. I think her parents might still live there.
That street, Adams Drive? My big, 8th grade crush lived there with his twin brother.
Where’s the pharmacy building on Main Street? Nothing left but an empty lot.
Our old dentist. I can still picture his dark, tiny waiting room. Doing the search puzzles in the outdated issues of Highlights magazine, trying to ignore the piercing sound of drills, while waiting with my mom and brothers after school.
We pass my old street, but continue on without stopping.
It seems melancholy now, writing about it, but it wasn’t, really. It was nice to be there, to remember that time in my life. I was happy to recall those days. I wonder if my children will look back on their childhood, these days, and feel the same.
For me, it seems very long ago and I know that it was.
Buildings are gone. People are gone.
I’m here. In the place responsible for my foundation.
The wedding was beautiful. It was sweet watching the tender dance between mother and groom. Her baby boy, now a married man.
My husband whispers, one day that will be me. Slow dancing with one of our sons, taller than me by then.
He says it with such conviction, without a doubt. He counts on it being a sure thing, but cancer seeps into my good mood, casting shadows on that future. I brush the dark thoughts away, as I would a gnat hovering by my ear. But, like the bug, thoughts of recurrence relentlessly buzz back. I keep swatting, pushing them away, refusing to let them land.
I try to remember that a future isn’t guaranteed for anyone in this room, cancer or not. I am no different.
We all dream of a future. Everyone, the bride and groom, their parents, their guests and me, the one who just drove through a small town, remembering what it was like to be young.
When the future was wide open. When it wasn’t something to fear, but something to be cherished. When it was something to raise a glass for and toast, right along with the past that brought us to this moment.
And that’s what I did.