Oh, the places you’ll go

Wherever you go around Tucson today there are congratulatory signs to University of Arizona grads, whisking me back to my own college graduation.

It’s 1968, and I’m sitting next to my first real boyfriend, among 2,000 plus other College of Liberal Arts and Science grads at the University of Connecticut.  Many of us are snoozing (hope I didn’t snore back then!) listening to the U.S. director of the federal budget. What did he tell us? Save your money, buy a house, invest in America — I don’t have a clue.

What I remember about that day is that my mother, who was around the same age as I am now, stumbled off a curb and fell into the street. She was embarrassed, and I’m sure I helped her up, but was I kind enough? She often annoyed me with her complaints, her unspoken regrets, her spoken fears.

Now I wish I could go back, like in “Being Erica,” a Canadian TV series that we’ve been watching. Every episode features a theme from the life of 32-year-old Erica Strange, an editor at a strange publishing company.  She returns to an event via unscheduled visits to her therapist Dr. Tom, who magically appears at the appropriate time.

Oh, to have such a therapist! He’s also very wise and sprinkles his advice with meaningful quotes from the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I’d like to return to my college graduation day. I didn’t understand how my mother could be so awkward. But now I do. Back in the ’90s I broke both my ankles on two separate occasions — one talking and missing a step while trespassing at a Maine summer home and the other not paying attention to ice on the road.

I’ve since lifted weights, walked more mindfully, and exercised more regularly to build muscle. I’ve fallen since but haven’t broken any bones. I’ve taken better care of myself, and wish I could have helped my mother do the same.

I like the idea of returning to amend regrets, erasing hurtful or insensitive comments, or doing something differently — perhaps even taking more risks, which was Erica’s last theme. But not if it took up too much time. Maybe I’d go back if I could choose just three life experiences to correct.

But I still have places to go! Maybe Italy or Turkey, but at least the three states I haven’t yet visited — Hawaii, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

A week from today Dan and I will head out on a two-week road trip to Oregon and the Northern California coast. We’ll probably visit dear friends in Bezerkeley, perhaps spend a day in Yosemite National Park. Better than visiting those elusive inner places? Maybe.

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8 Responses to Oh, the places you’ll go

  1. Julie Ray says:

    Nice!

  2. yetta goodman says:

    Thoughtful….. Remembering is part of learning. yg

    • sheilawill says:

      Thanks Yetta, Julie! Yes, it’s amazing how getting older different memories come up that I haven’t considered in a long time. Revisiting often surprises me with new feelings and approaches to what may have been a dilemma or even neutral at the time.

  3. Phyllis Brazee says:

    Hi Sheila!
    Yes, with age comes the wisdom to revisit one’s life, and if lucky, to have a larger frame in which to view/review it! I am doing that right now with my sister who is 13 years younger. Did we really grow up with the same parents? Actually, no…… Humbling!
    The re/viewing process IS about forgiveness and reconciliation, isn’t it?
    Love,
    Phyl

    • sheilawill says:

      It surprises me how what goes around comes around — again and again. I’m returning to children’s books, reading the YA series “The Hunger Games,” which I highly recommend, especially to you Phyl. Not as well crafted as “The Giver” but compelling and timely. Political science fiction that I love, well don’t really love, but it’s thought-provoking. And my latest big story, “The Heyday of Children’s Bookselling,” will be published in Publishers Weekly soon! Now for coffee.

  4. sheilawill says:

    From Sharon Osborne:

    On the subject of amends, here’s what I think. The best thing is to strive to be present and kind at all times, something that’s hard for many of us mere mortals. Failing that, always apologize and clear up misunderstandings as soon as we become aware that there is one, or that we have hurt or dissed someone. Not nearly as hard, once one gets used to it, (and involves the hard realization that we are no more important than any other person) and is the best way to win respect and affection from our friends and acquaintances. If the “offense” is in the past, it’s still worth doing because the person hurt will remember that hurt for a longer time than we will, and it can be very powerful to receive an apology or token of affection even after a long time. All of the above are opportunities I missed with my own parents because of my own ego, and regrets can cause US pain for a very long time, too. One of the gifts of my brother’s cancer diagnosis has been the opportunity to clean the slate and to show our considerable love for each other, and for our whole family to become closer. As I get older, and friends my own age or even younger are beginning to pass on or fall ill, my community of friends becomes even dearer to me; there’s just no time any more for blowing things off!

  5. lesley says:

    Lovely piece, Sheila. Don’t you think we spent a lot of our adolescence and young adult years embarrassed by our parents? I remember cringing when my dad tried to be cool by saying “Groovy” out loud to my friends. They thought him adorable. I wanted to crawl into a cave and hide.

    • sheilawill says:

      Thanks Lesley. Maybe we’re so embarrassed by our parents when we’re teens because we’re so insecure ourselves. Anyway, I like revisiting all this stuff in a kinder way now that I’m old.

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