Last time I was here, I was pregnant. I couldn’t help but think it when Doug was talking about that trip, how we’d taken a puddle-jumper plane from our connecting airport and slept across the back row, and I couldn’t remember. “You don’t remember anything,” he pouted. “I’ve blocked out a lot about that trip,” I thought, but I didn’t say it out loud because I didn’t want him to make the unfavorable connection as well.
Other parts of that trip are burned into my brain: the photos of me, I’ve mentioned here before, with my hand resting on my stomach in anticipation; Doug’s little cousin, Torrey, who was seven at the time, referring to “the baby in [my] tummy”; the case of water I drank that week, being careful to at least stay hydrated since I had no appetite; the pregnancy manual I read on the plane, going over the section on complications, lining up my body with the symptoms described, trying to convince myself that everything was going to turn out okay.
There was so much on my mind when we were here two years ago, so much immediacy and excitement and fear, and this trip promises to be way more enjoyable and way more relaxing. This is my chance to reclaim Virginia, like I was finally able to reclaim Santa Barbara post-divorce. But I don’t have four years of memories to fall back on here, when I want to think about an experience other than the painful one in question. As far as Virginia is concerned, I only have one set of memories, tainted by a false pregnancy and false hope. And knowing that I could be sent back there at any given moment, to re-examine all those memories and re-experience the inevitable let-down… Well, it kinda sucks.
The positive side of being here is the people we’re here to see: Doug’s Aunt Michelle, who helped raise him when she herself was still a kid (I told her this afternoon that, if she hadn’t had her own children so young, she and I would be part of the same generation – she’s only a year or two older than my sister, after all), her husband Kevin, and their family. They are fun, accommodating, and full of attitude. This is the sect of Doug’s family to whom I never felt I had to prove anything, for whom I never felt I had to be anyone other than myself. Which is kind of a big deal when you’re a 25-year-old recent divorcée who’s just taken this family’s eldest male out of his parents’ homes for the first time, and moved across the country with him.
This afternoon in the car, we coincidentally pulled up next to one of Kevin’s employees, who honked at Michelle and rolled down his window to chat. She told him we would stop by the store tomorrow, saying, “You can’t see them very well right now, but my nephew is here” (gesturing to Doug in the back of her SUV) “and my niece is here” (gesturing to me).
That made me incredibly happy. I’m in. As far as Michelle is concerned anyway, I’m already part of this family. Who needs a marriage certificate/permission slip?
At this moment, Michelle is making cornbread muffins to go with the chili that’s been slow-cooking all day. Doug, Kevin, and Jacob (15) are watching a movie. Torrey (now 9) just finished her homework, a crossword puzzle using meteorology vocabulary. Their home is warm and well-lit and smells spicy and delicious.
We’ve already committed to spending Christmas of 2011 here, and I wonder: is it possible to use projected memories – experiences which haven’t yet happened – as a defense against the painful ones that already have? Because if it is, I just might be set.