We’re on vacation this week on Cape Cod. I almost feel I need a long blank space in the page to let that thought sink in. It’s taken a couple of days, but we’re getting out of our normal city hustle and into a more relaxed vacation flow. It’s like coming off the highway after a very long trip - there’s still a tendency to let the speed drift up.
We chose this week and this location for our vacation because we had the opportunity to overlap some of our time away with friends who were vacationing close by.
We live in different cities now and it’s hard to see one another as much as we would like. Even here on vacation, we’re a few miles apart and don’t see each other every day. But there’s something about a close friendship that makes time and distance less relevant. And when you see each other after a pause it’s like taking up a well loved book that you’d just put down for a while.
And that’s what it’s been like for us this week. We’ve been to see our friends and their two wonderful children twice now on this trip. Each time we meet and settle in - which takes about a minute - and let our kids run (or crawl) around the yard or the living room, it feels like home. It feels even more homelike than it did we we saw one another nearly every week; back when we had the leisure and our good friends close at hand. I feel, when we meet after long intervals now, like an expatriate on a short visit home; the language, the food, the manners of the place that you are from are as much inside you as they are in the place that made you - and you love it all the more for it’s (or your) absence.
Tonight as I drove our friends home from our house - they took the bus to meet us - I knew that I was having one of those moments that you carry around in your pocket forever. When I had piled all the kids things into the back of our small wagon to make room for the extra passengers, I had looked regretfully at our cluttered floor - scattered toys, cloths and dry Cheerios (from my son).
“They’re friends,” I thought with some comfort, “I hope they’ll understand I haven’t had the time to clean.”
We were underway for a few minutes when the the older of the their children asked if he was sitting where my one year old son normally does.
“Yes,” I said, thinking that it was an uncannily prescient thought for an 8 year old, “How did you know that?”
“Because it smells,” he said.
There was a small pause while we all took in this honest observation and then all burst out laughing together.
“I’ll roll down the window,” I said still laughing.
We laughed and gabbled and were as silly as the children for the few miles that separated us from their vacation home. The warmth and delight that I felt for those minutes were rain in a cloud burst and I was soaking from it.
I know I’ll bring the thought of that ride out of my pocket on the many comfortless nights to come. I’ll think of that night and our friends won’t seem so far away. They might just be a town or two over. I’ll think of them and recall some of that warmth and gratitude.
For me, when someone takes up residence in your heart, distance and time cease to be meaningful. They are always with you.