Sunday, March 14, 2010

Suburban Homesick Gratitude Blues..( or, How the Hell I Did End Up Here)

Oh man, am I homesick.

Thing is, I'm homesick for a place that no longer exists. I'm beginning to doubt it ever did.

Last night was one of those early spring nights that bring a sense of wonder to even the most jaded of souls. One of the first warm days of the season that melts into a muted sunset and finally fades to a perfect royal blue as soon as the last rays have left the sky. The kind of night that keeps you out drinking on the patio until until your hands are frozen, claw like, around your pint glass and you are wearing your toque and jacket but you will NOT go inside because dammit, it's too nice out. Then at some point someone does convince you to come inside and you realize that you're drunk, and work tomorrow is going to suck balls anyway, so what the hell? Let's go see a show!

One of those nights where you crawl into bed at three a.m. You reek of beer and smoke, and faintly of regret, dreading the day to come. You know that it was all worth it, though, because dammit, you were with your friends, having an awesome time, you saw a great band, and shit; it's only one day. You'll survive.

I'm sure everyone has their own spring fever memories. Many of them likely involve less booze. The point is, that's mine. When I feel that clean, cool evening air for the first time after a long dark winter, that's the place I get taken back to.

This year, though, that wonderful sense of possibility was tinged with a pretty deep melancholy. As I rode through that fresh night on my bike, I felt like a younger version of myself, if only briefly. I felt like I was riding down through my old neighborhood to the local to meet some friends for a patio night.

I remembered that feeling of riding reckless through the city, not a care in the world other than what time the liquor store closed. I remembered living in a place that was large enough to have a band scene. I remembered stoop parties with my friends. I remembered being focused on a career where I showed some talent, and where I loved my work. It all came rushing in on me at once and it hurt. I let it.

What hurt was not so much that all of those things have changed in the past couple of years - although they have, dramatically - as the fact that those memories were quickly becoming fiction even as I was living them. Those nights going to meet friends were becoming fewer and further between, replaced by me, riding to the nearest pub to get drunk. Those stoop parties often just involved myself, a book, and twelve beer. My career? Definitely something there, but how many times can a person miss work because they're hung over?

There was nothing careless about my single life. It just seemed that way on the outside. And I know I wasn't the only one living that way. Many of my friends were in the same boat, sliding quickly from bar star to alcoholic, not noticing the years flying by, not changing. Just running faster, playing harder.

My whole world changed two years ago, the day my mother passed away. I gave up my wandering ways, my career, my whole lifestyle, moved to the flatlands to help my family. Like me, many of them had moved away when they were young. Now those wanderers are also returning home. I am surrounded by the big, messy, loving family that I'd spent so many years running from. It's the best decision I've ever made.

Six months after moving to this tiny town, I met a man. Now I have Captain Chaos - certainly the best thing that's ever happened to me. That little guy fills me with feelings I didn't even know existed before I became a parent.

In the past two years I've given up freedom for responsibility, solitude for family, recklessness for stability, dissolution for sobriety. Sometimes it's overwhelming, to think where I've been and where I am today. So, if one clear calm night, you see me gliding around on a bike and you can't quite place the expression on my face, I'll let you know right now - it's gratitude.

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