I am sitting on a train headed back to Montreal after having spent the weekend in Ontario for my parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary party. Mom, dad, siblings and spouses, nieces, aunts, uncles, and cousins were all in attendance. It was nice. My family has its quirks like any other, but nothing dreadful. Nothing like in movies set at Thanksgiving dinner tables. No sniping, histrionics, or passive-aggression. We laugh a lot. I like my people. I am lucky.
Still, spending time with them requires fine-tuning. Necessary adjustments to attitudes and behaviors when we discover, once again, that we don’t completely understand one another. To get along and head off frustration, I mute certain parts of myself and amplify others. This isn’t as bad as it may sound. Most people do this every day when they go to work, or to cocktail parties, or whatever. I manage easily enough by agreeing to be the goof that they have always known, and accept the ribbings as they come. It’s as familiar as mom’s oatmeal-raisin cookies.
The party was at my sister’s on Saturday afternoon. The rest of the time I was at my parents’ house, where we engaged in a lot of the usual. We showed each other silly things on the Internet that make us laugh. My parents argued over the crossword puzzle and gossiped about the neighbors. I told them that I am doing well at work and that I am generally fine. Dad tried to teach me how to change a bicycle tire, and I pretended to listen. Mom flitted about, offering soup, tea, and lemon squares. And because we had a whole day before my train left this evening, we visited vineyards around Wellington-on-the-Lake. Dad and I quaffed samples and bought bottles, while mom perused maps and collected tourist pamphlets.
The time leading up to my departure was one of mixed feelings, as it often is. On the one hand, it’s a relief knowing that I will soon sleep in my own bed. That I will be back among my friends. That dinner can take place after 6:30 pm.
On the other hand, my parents are comforting. They care like no one else. And they are getting older.
Mom drove me to the station this time. It’s a half-hour drive from their house, and dad opted to stay behind. As we pulled out of the driveway and dad stood waving, I remembered that I meant to have a photo taken with them. I don’t have any recent pictures of us together. A shot of us that afternoon at one of the wineries would have been perfect, but I forgot my camera and now the moment is gone.
“Don’t worry, Kim,” said mom, “There are lots of other vineyards for us to visit. Next time.”
As the train moves through darkened landscapes, my mind wanders to work, to upcoming evenings out, to the contents of my fridge. I am settling back into my life. But still, in this space between places, I feel a gentle tug back.