We’ve been back almost a week from the vacation that we smuggled Bogart on. I’d disclosed the dogs in advance, but not the cat. I know cat allergies are a very real concern for other renters but my concern that Bogart would run outside while we were away outweighed that concern. Upon arriving at the cottage we soon realized that the owners resided a mere cottage away and their laundry was in a room at the rear of the cottage next door to us. This was not our ideal set up and not just because of Bogart’s fondness for looking out of windows. When you have this sort of arrangement, it feels like when your parents would leave you alone and there would be that one neighbor who would watch you and the house with a keen and overwhelming interest. Bogart isn’t one to abide by pesky rules of any sort – like, stay inside, don’t eat random things you may find, stay out of windows in the cottage. This cottage had a loft which Andrea smartly did not access in front of the cat. I wasn’t as covert, so the cat watched with great interest as I climbed the ladder to the loft. I could see him formulating a plan to join me and he soon did. I wasn’t sure how he was going to get down, but he’s fearless so he navigated his descent like a pro.
One day, I spotted Bogart in the bedroom of the cottage and assumed he was chasing his tail. It wasn’t until I saw him flip something in the air that I realized it wasn’t his tail that he was after. I went to investigate and discovered Bogart pouncing on a wasp. I called for back up and Andrea ruined all Bogart’s fun by swiftly removing the wasp from the cottage. On the last day of our stay, the cottage owners messaged to ask if they had seen a cat in our cottage. I considered replying, “Cat?! What cat!?” but instead went with the truth.
I was overdue for vacation. Here’s how you know if you’re overdue: You behave like a crazy person and have irrational thoughts. In my case, I don’t realize I’m overdue until it’s too late. I realize as my crazy pours out in torrents. Unchecked. Overtaking me. Thank god we didn’t wait until late August to go which is a time we frequently go on vacation. It was in the stillness of vacation that I could assess how I’d gotten to the state I found myself in. I could unpack the frenzied months leading up to this belated, blessed pause. And, as much as vacation was restful and resetting, it was energizing too. I recently enrolled in a class to pursue coaching (business and personal) certification, the class begins in September and there’s required reading prior to the class getting underway. I read two (and a half) of the four required books which made for some “ah ha” moments. Part of the coaching certification process requires that you actually coach people – and get paid to do it. To say I’m serious about this is an understatement – I’m serious and energized by the possibilities. I’ve hired an AMAZING woman to help me build my logo, my brand, my social media. I look forward to sharing this with all of you! Also on vacation, I completed my mindfulness meditation teacher certification to share meditation with others and began a course to learn to teach meditation to children. I figure if I can’t recognize when I’m overdue for vacation (over stressed) how can others? How can employees and leaders? I want to bring these gifts of coaching and mindfulness meditation to employees, parents, anyone who could stand to grab a little peace of mind during these wild times. The class for children is a lot deeper than I’d anticipated – with challenging homework that makes me think. It’s very good and, thankfully, much different from the other class I took. I don’t have children of my own and this class is interesting – about the ways, unintended and otherwise, we fuck kids up by imprinting shit onto them (this is a total paraphrase as the woman I’m learning from is so lovely and subtle). It helps me understand how we all grow into the flawed beings that we do and bring our wholly flawed selves into work, marriages, parenthood. Our brains are assholes - they have a negativity bias. The good news is that we can unlearn our imprints and retrain our brains. I’m currently retraining my weary brain by participating in a “summer sanity challenge” during the month of August with the app 10% Happier – which is based on the book by the same title, written by Dan Harris. I make the dog participate in meditating – Georgie needs it. He’s a nervous sort. Georgie will lie close to me while I meditate which is as good as it gets – his warm body, still at last.
As Andrea and I returned from vacation, a red pick-up truck caught her eye at a nearby dealership. It wasn’t the Ford or Chevy she’d always dreamed of but it was a used truck all the same. When we arrived home, she looked up the truck online and learned it was a 1994 Nissan with approximately 32k miles on it. We thought the mileage may be a mistake – but it wasn’t. It really was that low. Andrea is not a shopper and hardly buys anything – when she does buy something, it’s usually practical and necessary. Or, electronics, which she would argue are necessary. I could see she was interested in this truck and she was going to let it slip past her. I encouraged her to test drive it. I'm an enabler - but in a good way. It was fun riding in it – it was like entering a time machine to my younger years. The smell and the bench seat. The crank windows. The tape-deck! I cannot believe I let my Whitesnake tape go…. Andrea is now the proud owner of this beauty. Between this 1990s gem and Andrea fishing on vacation, I felt like we were dialing back to a simpler time when people didn’t have smart phones, COVID or reality TV stars as President. I’m seldom nostalgic, in fact, I sort of despise it. When crabby old man Potter gruffly says, "Sentimental hogwash!" In It's Wonderful Life, I actually side with him for one brief moment. But this summer, this vacation, I felt myself sliding into nostalgia while wearing my Back to the Future pajama pants. I watched Andrea fish just as I’d watched my high school boyfriend fish many years ago. Full circle. Sort of – on a deep and winding path. Right after we’d move to Virginia, I received a Facebook friend request from someone. I muttered the name under my breath – reaching into the far corners of my brain. “This must be someone from high school drama club.” I muttered, accepting the request. It wasn’t until much later that I realized it was one of the sisters of the very high school boyfriend I mentioned above. He had a large family – he was one of 7. But I feel a little ridiculous for not being able to call this sister to mind as I had attended her wedding. She’s still married – same guy. No starter spouse for her. I’d dated her brother a year and a half which is a lifetime when you’re in high school. One day, he inexplicably dumped me. I can’t recall why. The next day, when I’d arrived at school, he was waiting – remorseful.
“I made a mistake.” He said, trailing me down the hallway.
“I’ll say.” I replied, dismissing him. I had plans by then – plans that didn’t include him or Illinois.
All this – more than a lifetime ago. While shopping at Wal-Mart last night in another attempt to find Lysol Disinfecting detergent (scored!) Andrea browsed the auto aisles. Wal-Mart has more than one aisle – full of things for your car or truck. An entire section of things to make your car smell good – those cardboard pine trees in all sorts of scents. My eyes settled on “fresh shave” and widened. The red and white striped design was reminiscent of my dad’s can of Barbasol shaving cream. “This one. You should get this one.”
If we stuck a bar of Ivory soap in the truck, I suspect it would smell a lot like the bathroom did when my old man had finished cleaning himself up in there. It’s tempting to indulge in sentimental hogwash to try to recreate this memory since there’s not a whole lot of new memories being knit together this COVID summer.