Another rainy December day.
And so close to Christmas!
My mood follows the weather.
I miss the beautiful Christmas-card landscape that a nice blanket of snow provides.
I miss Christmases past: meals and games with family and friends; small children to please; decorations and lights and a big Christmas tree; holiday chaos.
I miss my family.
This time of year, with all the memories and nostalgia that Christmas brings, and all of the “re-evaluating of what is important” that come with the new year, I wonder about my good sense in choosing to live on an isolated island, far from my siblings, my children, my grandchildren…
The rain doesn’t help.
It’s an annual thing, it seems, these doubts about my choices in life. They have become more intense over the years as deaths serve as reminders of the shortness of time, and the value of family. It starts with melancholy, loneliness and missing old times. It grows into a feeling of near desperation.
I could move! I could pack up what’s important, and go back to my home town.
I could sell my rag-tag little house, with its mis-matched windows, particle board floor and shingles sliding off the roof. I could rent! My needs are few: dog-friendly, affordable, and with a small space to use as a studio. Maybe I could rent the little house from my brother, that is next door to his, and was – sixty years ago – where my grandparents lived. Or I could rent the house on Howard Street from my sister, and be close to downtown. Good riddance to the long list of things that need to be completed and the never-ending repairs!
I could leave my good job at the hardware store…my boss has been pretty cranky lately, anyway. I could find someone to take over the Beacon: it has caused me enough frustration already. It isn’t impossible to think I could get a job “out in the real world.” I could substitute teach. I could teach enrichment classes in the evenings, for community education. Maybe I could write for the newspaper…
In doing my day-off chores, I go to the hardware store, post office, bank, grocery store, gas station, and then to the transfer station to drop off my trash and recyclables. Everyone knows me, and I know them. Everyone is nice, helpful, and sends me off with good holiday wishes.
Then there’s my Aunt Katie, the matriarch of our family, who is important to me for her good humor, generosity and kindness as well as all the history we share. I don’t think I could move away from Aunt Katie.
Carrying in loads of groceries and packages, I notice, with tenderness, the bright green moss growing out from between the red paving stones on my kitchen stoop. I see with fresh eyes the stones – placed one by one with my own hands – that border flower beds and garden edges and – buried so that just the flattish tops show – form a rustic walkway leading to the back door.
Inside, I appreciate the vertical trim board, where my grandchildren have noted their growth over the years. My kitchen cabinets are adorned with paintings on the inside of each cupboard door. An assortment of mismatched cabinet and drawer pulls, gathered by my daughter Kate from a dozen different sources, give them a one-of-a-kind look.
Just before Kate was born, we moved our little family out of the lake house (too small, too rickety, too impossible to heat!) into a brand new townhouse. What a relief! And yet, the plans we’d made for that little lake house…good plans…were never completed. That has always bothered me a little. If I were to walk away from my house now, would I be haunted by my unfinished business here?
There are the “bottom lines” to think of: property values and the slow-moving real estate market, the cost and difficulty of moving, the particulars of maintaining a vehicle on the mainland, transferring medical and insurance records, and on and on.
And then it comes to the emotional terms. For my whole life, I missed Beaver Island when I wasn’t here. As an adult, whenever I’ve had to be away for a season or more, I’ve kept a poem by Langston Hughes posted to console me:
Wave of sorrow/do not drown me now./I see the island/still ahead somehow./I see the island/and its sands are fair./Wave of sorrow/take me there.
I don’t know how to reconcile all of the feelings of love and loss and distance. For now at least, Beaver Island is my home.
A little snow right now would help!