I read recently that 73% of individuals have improved mental health the moment they become fully vaccinated. Tim and I fit that statistic. As soon as we received our second vaccination one word flashed into our minds: ROADTRIP! Having been sequestered together for over a year it was time for a change of scenery. We have traveled from Tampa to the West Coast a dozen times and sorely missed the sights and adventures of the open road. We decided to test the waters of the road slowly, driving to Georgia and North Carolina, returning to Tampa via Daytona Beach. What began as a book selling and marketing trip to promote Writing In Wet Cement ended up with much more. This trip was not just about book marketing. Our journey was an important reconnection with dear long-time friends who we had not seen in years. It also became the celebration between my husband and myself. We needed to get away from ourselves to rediscover ourselves. It was time to escape our Covid 19 self-imposed quarantine.
Robin said it best: “No one should have to spend 24/7 with their spouse for an entire year.”
While driving we reconnected with the stories we loved best about one another which still made us laugh as though they were brand new. Long stretches of country roads shaded by ancient water oaks draped with purple wild wisteria provided new visions and adventures. We loved Pat Conroy’s “low country” which Prince of Tides and The Great Santini had embedded in my mind. In Savannah, Georgia and Charleston and we reveled in the historical streets and graveyards. New words and local colloquialisms added to our vocabulary. In the beautiful Savannah history-drenched streets we learned the ancient local color, “Taint” meaning, “tain’t green, tain’t grey, tain’t blue.” Taint was the color used in early slave homes to ward off “haunts.” Taint can still be found on the shutters of the oldest Savannah homes, warding off ghosts to this day.
As always, we listened to music, the melodies mingling with our constant conversation. We loved deciphering the different lyrics to the CDs we had brought with us for our listening pleasure. “Just Like a Woman'', Bob Dylan’s heart-wrenching ageless sonnet in sound, especially intrigued us. What did Bob Dylan mean by the line:
“And your long-time curse hurts but what’s worse
Is this pain in here,
I can’t stay in here...ain’t it clear?
That I just can’t fit…”
We chewed those words up, spit them out, examined them like tea leaves and finally came to our own conclusion. Every person is a house with keys to many rooms. We invite people into our rooms. Sometimes they stay. Sometimes they are evicted. Sometimes we choose to depart. “I can’t stay in here. Ain't it clear?” On our road trip we discovered no matter the miles and years between homes, the dearest of friends will remain in our rooms forever.
I fulfilled my marketing responsibilities and visited bookstores in Savannah, Charleston, Raleigh and Southern Pines, North Carolina. I was humbled that Writing In Wet Cement was so well received. Booksellers respected and welcomed authors like myself. An added bonus was my love of ghosts and graveyards equally respected and revered in Savannah and Charleston. Every bookstore in the low country held a section on ghosts. I glowed when I was asked to return when my second book, Raising The Dead is published, a promise which will be easy to keep!
It was time for the most important part of our journey: reconnecting with old friends we had not seen in years due to Covid. In North Carolina we stayed with my Vermont “sister” Sharon, and her husband, Bill. We had not seen one another in two years. They shared my past from the time the three of us grew up in Wyckoff, New Jersey. Our love of one another had continued in the green hills of Vermont.
The moment I walked into Sharon and Bill’s home in North Carolina I felt as though I was in my twenties, transported back to my Vermont life. This was my family I had met at the age of fourteen. They gathered us right back into the fold and into their rooms, lives and hearts. Sherrie and our sisterly love of one another was immediately renewed. Bill was as always his loving self, teasing me as I attempted to give as good as I got, but never quite succeeded.
I would have known their home anywhere as it duplicated the antiques and comfort of their beautiful Vermont Cape Cod. I recognized many of the porcelain I treasure in my own home: Quimper ware, Staffordshire and Daulton figurines. Adding to the memory-evoking touches in every room were Sherrie’s mom’s hand hooked mats, fun art and Sherrie’s tastefulness. Their home was cozy, homey and welcoming. Each nook and cranny was touched by Sherrie’s warmth. The delicate pink tulips which greeted us on our arrival opened their blossoms during our visit and only began dropping their blooms on the day we departed.
We shared our love of birds and learned new North Carolina species and their songs from the ever-present flocks vying for seeds at their feeder. Their manicured yards were an oasis for birds, surrounded by pine trees, flowering cherry and bright-blooming azaleas. I shared recipes and Sherrie’s kitchen, whipping up Onion Bread and crepes, contributing to Master Chef Sharon’s epicurean delights. UNO, Crown 5 was played nightly with battle roars and cocktails to ease my pain when losing.
Tim and I had fallen seamlessly into Sherrie and Bill’s histories, homes and arms. We still held the keys to the rooms of one another's hearts with all those secrets and promises we had shared for decades.
One of the main characters in my life and book, Robin, “Rosie” in Writing In Wet Cement was on her own Vax-Vacay. Through a remarkable coincidence she had traveled from California to visit her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren who lived 30 minutes from Sharon and Bill’s home. Robin and I would see one another for the first time in twelve years.
I met Robin in 1978 at a YMCA infant ed swimming program with our year-old daughters. Our friendship grew along with our children. Through our playgroup with other women the bonds of our lives were tightly bound. Robin taught me to be a mom and pulled me through more difficult days than I can count. Though separated by distance and time we had always held the keys to one another’s rooms, hearts and lives. This visit was a bridge from the past to the present. The moment we first hugged one another the miles and years evaporated.
WAR UNO was played, as always. Tim and I love that our revised card game is the glue that holds all our families, kids and friends together. A visit anywhere is never complete until there is a raging UNO battle with grandchildren learning the game at an early age. Tyler, Robin’s seven-year old grandson, beat Tim soundly, much to everyone’s glee.
Our Bob Dylan theory was proving to be true. Each relationship is the key to a room in the house of your heart. Some rooms will always have open doors, no matter the distance in time and miles. Some rooms need to be barred and locked forever. Other rooms can be opened only with the special, secreted key you hold. We wondered over past friends and relationships, even relatives, who we had fallen out of contact with. Do you keep some rooms locked forever? Do you open the door to a room locked with a key only you hold? Do you build a new house or embrace the old, rejoicing in the discoveries every unlocked door reveals?
Through our own reunion with one another Tim and I came to the conclusion that sometimes the person you most need to reconnect and reunite with can be next to you or 3000 miles away. That person has the keys to all the rooms in your heart. We were convinced that our interpretation of Bob Dylan's words fits our lives and the rooms in our heart perfectly.
We can’t wait for our journey to the West Coast to reconnect with long-time friends and favorite haunts on the other side of the country. As we drive up Big Sur and the Pacific Coast we’ll be sure to bring Bob, Elton, Paul, John, George and Ringo along with us. We’ll be entertained and challenged by their words every mile of our journey.
Keep the light on dear friends in the rooms we cherish. We’re coming your way!