The Middle Place

Last week I finally got on a plane and went to visit my brother and his wife in San Francisco. Ten years ago I had grounded myself with (conveniently cited) budget constraints and a rabid fear of flying. This trip was big.

My mom went with me. Actually, the whole thing was her idea. Before surgery on her shoulder, she made me promise that when it healed, we could go. Imagining her on an operating table under anesthesia, I said yes. And shortly thereafter I was stuffing a boarding pass in my purse, and peeing my pants.

I’ll spare you the story of the vodka-soaked flight over, but the visit itself was great. We had ideal weather, saw a lot, drank a lot, and of course, ate incredibly. My brother had to work, so for much of the sightseeing, it was just my mother, my sister-in-law and me.

Did I mention, my sister-in-law is extremely smart and ambitious? She’s at the top of her class at a top law school. Oh, and she’s the managing editor of her law school journal.

Did I mention my mom is 71 and retired? She plays the piano at her church and bakes a mean mint brownie. After her shoulder was fixed, her hip started to bother her. And now her other shoulder hurts.

These two were my traveling companions.

My sister-in-law is forward-looking. “Maybe we should rent in the city and buy a house in Napa,” she told my brother one day. “Wouldn’t it be fun to make wine?”  She carried around a law-school book in her bag, and pulled it out whenever there was down time. She drove fast, weaving in-and-out of traffic, cursing dawdling drivers.

My mom lives in the present. She’s been married three times, and her number three is juuust right. She’s finally settled, and she loves nothing more than a long afternoon with a good book, or a day spent caning peaches. She’s challenged by her feet. After too much walking they hurt, and she has to sit to down and put them up.

I’m not sure where I’m looking or in what tense I’m living.  I feel too old to dream about a house in Napa, but too young to put my feet up. I know it’s not all that profound. Hello, I’m not young, I’m not old. That’s why they call it middle age.

But every time I go on vacation, I reflect. No matter how busy I am. I compare my vacation life to my other life, to the lives of those around me. I can’t help it. I’m crazy, so what.

This time my assessments came from two generational data points. And I have to say, I felt boring. It’s hard to remember some of the dreams I’ve had, or worse, acknowledge they’ll never happen. Sure, I love my family, my house, having a garden and shelves filled with books.

But some days I’m bored, and restless. And oh gosh, what is there to look forward to? Sore feet, breast cancer, parents dying, kids leaving, friends getting divorced?

Dont’ get me wrong, I’m grateful for what I do have. Some days, I’m even freakishly grateful. But other days, I want to go back — just a wee bit, and see if I couldn’t make better headway on those dreams.

It’s weird to be in the middle. It’s even weirder when you’re aware of it.

12 thoughts on “The Middle Place

    1. Heck if I know. I was waiting on you to figure it out.

      P.S. What we don’t do is go back to Manhattan until we’ve figured it out.

  1. I’m in that same place. I feel young inside. The mirror tells a different tale. I want to embrace life but so much responsibility gets in the way. I do the same thing on vacation: I mourn the life I could have had and plot the life I want to have someday. This is right around the time I trip on an exposed tree root.

  2. I’m still stuck on your comments around the airplane ride! So many memories of you back in Chicago working at the agency, and I was walking you off the ledge before heading out to O’Hare…those conversations sent me into belly laughs!
    Jodi – you have such a gift of writing…and ability to make a lasting impact on those lives you touch!…Don’t change.

  3. It is weird–and uncomfortable–to be aware! It’s good, though. Think of all the people who rush around being busy, busy, busy and never take time to reflect and wonder about life. They aren’t really living; you are.

  4. Loved this post, and always, your honesty. Vacation does the same thing to me, usually making me regret that I never left my own “J. Crewville”, fleeing to a splendored mountain region with an exciting mining history. If I could do one thing over, I would have moved away and lived a “vacation” life for those few, fresh years of marriage. Ahhh. That’s dreamy to me.

  5. You have two friends where I am now. I think you should consider another trip (very serious).

    No, I won’t be able to solve anything or provide any insight, but I will be happy to make your mom’s mint brownies if she’ll share the recipe.

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