Yes, that is the title of my new CD, but it seems like a good word in general. I haven’t made a New Year’s Resolution in a long time, but I think that this will be mine –

"Christmas Town" in Linda's backyard
(photo by Linda Eder)

I think I have finally realized how much I look to the past and live for the future. Maybe it’s something we all do. It’s safe to remember the past. It’s fixed and unchanging. What was good will always be good, funny always funny, successful always successful. The past is safe. The future is free, a dream, and a dream can be anything we want it to be. The present, where we find ourselves now, is everything we did in the past and hope to do in the future. Maybe that’s why it’s hard to live in it. 

On December 27th I was in Minnesota at my childhood home waiting to fly back to New York. Jake and I had spent seven days there enjoying Christmas with my parents in their cozy home high above the frozen lake. It was a nice vacation. I slept in every morning with nothing pressing to get up for except more of my Mom’s good cooking, and my sleep-deprived body thanked me for it. I went for runs around the two mile loop that I ran endless times while growing up there. My Dad and my 11 year-old son, who is on the cusp of young manhood, did manly things, snowmobiling and target shooting. Turns out he’s a crack shot. There was a fire in the fireplace every night and quiet peaceful conversations around it. It was a good trip and all was going according to the plan. Then on the 27th Mother Nature changed the plan. 

I had packed the night before and my body and mind were already in “going home” mode when I went to sleep the night of the 26th. I woke to an email alert from Orbitz that my 3p.m. flight had been already been canceled. Great. Phone calls to Delta were met with a pre-recorded message, and the Delta Web site was useless. We were stuck. All the wheels of motion, and chasing the future, ground to a halt. It was clear we were not going anywhere. 

For a day and a half I made fruitless phone calls and checked the Web site. Frustrated and stressed, I wasted those hours no longer able to see the beauty in the Minnesota winter or the peace in my parents’ home. When I finally got someone from Delta on the phone, I was told that the best they could do was standby on a flight five days later. There were 20 seats that I was welcome “to fight over” (their words) and 12 of those were exit rows – seats that Jake would not even be allowed to sit in. The plan had been altered! I had no control and the control freak in me was taking a beating. 

As I struggled with my situation, I realized just how much I don’t live in the present. Did I really need to be anywhere? No. So why act like an ant? Always pushing out the next grain of sand instead of stopping to look at the beauty of the sand. Every time I am on a plane and look down over cities, I always feel like we are ants. The earth seems covered with ant highways! Well… let me tell you, Northern Minnesota, a home on a hill over a frozen lake with older retired parents is… quiet. No highways, hardly any cars, rarely a human in sight, kind of quiet. There is a lot of time to think.   

I’m not going to tell you that I learned the secret of living in the present (I spent a lot of time thinking about how to get home), but I did make some progress once I finally accepted the fact that we were stuck. If you are going to be stuck, then what better place to be stuck in? My mom would declare every afternoon that she was not cooking another big meal that night, and yet a big meal would magically appear. I went for more runs, I slept in, I visited with old friends that I would not have had the chance to see if we had made our plane. I played many games of Rummikub with Jake, and it was great to see him using his brain instead of sitting in front of a video game. I got to spend extra time with my brother and his family. I had more time to recall memories of my youth and teenage years. I had more time to listen to my parents and watch them in the “dance” they have created from living together for over 50 years. It’s funny, complicated, and, ultimately, touching. Mother Nature forced me to slow down and change the plan. It was a good lesson.

Now… let me tell you how we got home.

I’m still a control freak so while I was working to live in the moment, part of my brain was keeping an eye on Fox News (my Dad’s bible) and the weather report. Flying was problematic any way you sliced it. Delta Frequent Flyer people were telling me “until things stopped getting worse they were not going to get better” - not what I wanted to hear. Finally my gypsy blood (fed by my inner control freak) kicked in, and I announced to my parents that I was going to drive back. I had rented a big Jeep for the trip and I had faith in it. Door to door (my brother’s door since he is two hours closer) it is almost 21 hours. Am I crazy? A little. 

We had one more nice (big) lunch with my parents, and then Jake and I headed down toward Minneapolis and my brother’s house. We had an evening with them and went to bed early. At 5 a.m. we hit the dark road. Jake has always been good about waking up early. He transferred from the bed to the reclined car seat and slept for the next three hours while I struggled to stay awake. I had no coffee until after Jake woke up because I didn’t want to leave him alone in the car and also did not want to wake him up. He woke up fresh as a daisy and we stopped for our first gas and snack stop. I let him choose his breakfast. He ate Cool Ranch Doritos and a rice crispy bar! That’s what he wanted! I bought myself the gallon size coffee cup. I could swear it was a gallon… Then… I drove. I can drive. Once I get behind the wheel I can keep going. I would have made a good trucker. Over the next many hours, Jake watched four movies and played games and had a great time. I turned on the cruise control, sipped my coffee and watched America go by. My goal was to make it to Youngstown, Ohio, which is a little over three quarters of the way. I called my parents regularly because I knew they would worry about us. We had dry roads and not too much traffic. Before I knew it we were in Youngstown… and then beyond Youngstown. I had gotten one more regular coffee at around 3 p.m. and by 8 p.m. I still felt wide-awake. 

The truth is I did not want to stop. I was six hours from home and my own bed, and I did not feel like trying for a bad night’s sleep in a sterile hotel room. So I looked at Jake and I said, “What do you think? Are you up for going all the way without stopping?”  He said yes but that it was up to me because I was the one who might get tired. He’s growing up.

I knew I could do it. We kept going. Of course this meant lying to my parents. Lying by omission. I knew they would worry and I knew my Dad would sit up until we pulled into our driveway. That would not be until 2 a.m. and I did not want to put that stress on my parents. So… when I made the planned phone called from Youngstown, I let my mother “assume” we were in our hotel. Did I feel badly about it? Yes. Did I feel it was best for them? Absolutely.
  
Well, like a big lying trucker I put the pedal to the metal and we pushed on. Jake did his part by talking to me, telling jokes and doing his best to keep me entertained. Six hours of driving left to go. The roads stayed dry, the traffic went away except for “my fellow truckers” who own the roads at night. Just enough trucks to keep you awake. Jake kept up his show for two hours and then he reclined his seat and fell asleep talking. I swear… mid sentence. I felt good and drove on in the dark with nothing but the sound of the tires. I was “in the moment” because I was doing something new, something out of the ordinary, a little risky because it was winter, nighttime, and I was driving through states not towns.

While Jake was asleep in those last hours and there was no longer the small buzz of sound effects leaking out to me from his headphones, I realized that during the entire trip we never even turned on the radio. I think it helped. I think sound is draining after that many hours. I enjoyed the silence.

In the last 75 miles of the 1200-mile trip, I was finally getting tired. My eyes were getting heavy, but I was on familiar roads and seeing signs for home. All I wanted was my own bed. Just before 2 a.m. I pulled into the driveway and in the moonlight saw my yard covered in the snow that had cancelled our flight. That damn, stranding, beautiful snow.
On the 19th of December Jake and I had flown away from the barren, snowless, useless winter and returned to… Christmas Town. 

I know that I am crazy. But sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary just to remember it 20 years later. Jake never complained once, never said “are we there yet.”   We had fun and together we made a memory that will stay with us. When I put my head down on my pillow, it took about 20 minutes for the thump of the tires to go away, but there is nothing as good as your own bed in your own house in your own corner of the world.

Everyone knows that life goes fast. There is really only one way to slow it down. Live in the moment. It’s a new year with new music, and I hope to find ways to create the moments that are so unique and good that they slow life down. Moments that don’t get filed away so deeply in dusty corners of my brain that I have little hope of remembering them without documented proof that they even happened at all.

It doesn’t take much to make those moments. They don’t have to be expensive or fancy, just new, unusual, maybe a little risky and all the better when shared with someone.
Proof of life.

 

 

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