Worm Hole

time-tunnelVisiting a ladies dress shop in the seventies, I want to pay for my purchase. My money and a sales slip are placed inside a cylinder that twists shut, and then disappears into a large overhead tube. Whoosh! After a few minutes pass – thunk! – the cylinder reappears and I get my change and the receipt. The only place I see those quaint vacuum tubes these days are in bank drive-thru lanes. But I really wish someone had applied that technology to the interstate system. I would like nothing better than trundling down a ramp in Chicago, and emerging in a few seconds at the destination of my choice. OK, maybe vacuum tubes wouldn’t be enough, you’d have to have a worm hole, but stay with me here. Folding space and time would just be so much more convenient! Less traffic congestion, no long TSA lines at the airport, savings on gas! After driving over 600 miles over the last weekend, there’s a great appeal to getting there, the faster the better. We’re squealing as we collect people at the airport, and shouting as we pull into the driveway – “we’re here!!”

However I’ve envisioned our get-together, the reality is excitement bubbling over into multiple simultaneous conversations, overlapping sound and emotion that covers individual words. I might not know what my mom and son are discussing, but I can tell they’re having fun. We laugh and share and hug. Meals are assembled in a kind of slow motion as we kibbutz, opening drawers and cabinets in search of the right utensils and dishes. Everyone shows off their culinary skills for what seems like one continuous meal, since after we clean up, it’s time to think about eating again.

Fortunately, we do get out of the house – if only to digest. We avoid the malls and pick our way around town to a candy store, a pottery, a quirky hotel’s art exhibit, and a recently renovated museum. These venues are bustling, but not overwhelming, and give us the opportunity to share special local places with our kids.

A worm hole, as depicted in science fiction, will move you across great distances, but just as often, will move you across time as well. Transported to the past so that the protagonists can correct some historical fault, or preserve an event that will have great repercussions. While our trip didn’t have the advantage of a worm hole to jump over great distance, I think time travel is still a factor. During a trip home I reconnect with past holidays, recombining the event with an updated mix of people. Not to amend the past, but build on it. Memories overlaid onto new construction, forming a new experience.

Vivid Dreams

img_1763Once a year, a local movie theatre shows all of the films nominated for Academy Awards in the Animated Short Film category. Not your garden-variety Saturday morning cartoons, but serious films with themes ranging from horror to childhood to the absurd. My dreams are often like this film festival: short, disconnected stories, and yet they are beautiful, haunting, and thought-provoking.

Dreams feel real and totally serious when you’re having them. It’s not until you try to explain them to someone that you see the things that don’t make sense or fit together. Sometimes, I’m only left with a feeling about a dream, and can’t grasp any words to describe them – like trying to pick up a delicate piece of fabric while it disintegrates and turn to dust. But this week my dreams have been vivid and filled with memorable details that follow me around all day.

Night #1: I’m roaming through someone’s home, uninvited. The rooms are irregularly shaped, and flow together. I’m drawn to one bright room to find that the ceiling and walls are made up of a series of skylights. A baby stands in a crib, and I notice the walls are decorated with African animals. In the next room, the owners catch up with me, mistaking me for someone come to correct their window treatments. “The awnings aren’t what we ordered – take them back and bring us the right ones”. At that moment, I see how I’ll get out of there, so I play along: “I’ll have someone from the store come take them down”, and then I walk outside. Looking back at the building, I see the room made entirely of skylights, adjacent to a playground.

Night #2: I’m with a group of people getting ready for the prom and our clothes are covered with sequins.

Night #3: I buy a colorful rectangular frieze of bowling balls and bowling pins. It is actually four or six separate pieces. Someone is complaining to me that I haven’t paid enough, that I need to pay for each section separately. I think I bought the set, with a different, discounted price. Someone is scoffing, wondering why I would buy so many bowling balls and pins. I point out that they are miniatures, not the size you actually play with.

I’ve been very busy the last two weeks. We hosted a large, high-profile event at work, I finished a long project, we’re preparing for a Thanksgiving trip, and I bought a miniature sculpture shaped like an animal. Sleep should be a refuge, but instead of shutting down, my brain is busy processing and recombining everything into a puzzle filled with imagery and symbols. When I tell my husband about my dreams, he can usually put his finger on themes that ring true: feeling exposed or in control, gearing up for something special, weighing options for an important choice.

Dreams – my personal movies – red carpet premiers, sometimes available in serial format or reruns. And I don’t even have to eat popcorn before bed.

Thermostat

img_1758My nose is cold, but the rest of me is wrapped in a down comforter. I’m wondering how many more days we can last before we turn on the heat. That’s not a decision driven by our budget, but sort of a self-imposed challenge. We know winter will be cold and long, and we are resisting the final concession that mild days are behind us. Like most changes of season, it rarely happens in one stroke. November still has some sunny days that warm up our condo, and by the time it cools down, we’re going to bed. But in the mornings, it’s a race to shower and dress.

Once we get our first snow, that’s it, the heat goes on, but we will keep it at a moderate 74 or 75. When the kids visit, they think we’re crazy; I tell them to put on a sweater and socks. I love layering up and it’s the correct adaptation to Chicago winters. Long underwear, turtlenecks, scarves, hats, gloves, boots. All my winter armor is at the ready.

When we first moved to Chicago the condo building we lived in had centrally controlled heating and air conditioning. We could decide if the blower in our unit was on, but building management decided which system was available. So when the heat was on in October and it was 78 degrees outside, people would throw open their windows in an attempt to cool off. Likewise, if there was a chilly evening in June, all you could do was close your windows and dig out a blanket.

I have something akin to a secret weapon for winter. This hot geyser occasionally overwhelms my internal thermostat so that I feel like steam is coming off of my skin. I yank a layer off, I fan myself, I lay my bare arms on the granite kitchen island and think I hear a sizzling sound. In a few minutes, the layers go back on. Unfortunately, this heat surge knows no season, and just as often makes summer momentarily unbearable as well. There’s no building manager I can complain to, so I guess I’ll just have to open a window.

The Line

img_1744I’m done. Start over. Do not cross. This changes everything. I’m dividing me and you. This is the end. There are times when drawing a line is the only way we can move on.

We heard of a teacher who while grading essays would draw a line across the text when he couldn’t read anymore. If you were lucky, that mark was at the end of your paper, but more often it was midway through – the line was where he stopped because he couldn’t stand to read another sentence. Harsh criticism, but who among us hasn’t felt that lately. I want to draw a line on election day and hope that our heads will clear and normal life can resume.

Some lines represent personal changes I want to make. Over the last week I ate too much and exercised too little. Regretting those poor choices, I’ll do better today and build on it from there. I’ll clean out my closet vowing it will continue to look this roomy forever. Heartfelt resolutions, consciously made so I can improve.

Some lines we face saying, “everything after this will be different.” Having children is one of those. We used to joke that having a baby was like someone had parked a honking truck in our house: normal life could not proceed because of the noise and smell. Moving is another example: whether across town or across the country, your life is completely rearranged.

Some lines we don’t recognize at the time. When you get married, it seems like you’ll just continue the relationship you’ve started. But living life together with shared decisions, challenges, and joys forges a unit that wasn’t there before.

We define space we claim as our own with lines. I remember wanted to literally draw a crayon line in the back seat of the car to compel my brother to stay on his side. Fences and gated enclaves are our adult versions.

Big goals appear as finish lines on the horizon. Train for a marathon, study for an advanced degree, win the World Series (looking’ at you, Cubs!). Once achieved, we should be thrilled, satisfied, finished. But we find that lofty goals like these are merely markers on a continuing path where we are never truly done.

It’s a new week, so it seems like a good time to draw a line, hit the reset button, and start fresh.