(This column originally ran on December 3, 2010. Kathryn Eastburn will return next week.)
‘Tis the season of contradiction. Bare black tree limbs, frozen earth, and neighborhood houses lighted up like Vegas. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and a constant string of economic forecasts based on how much we might or might not spend on stuff we don’t need in this holiday season.
Meanwhile, 28 million jobless Americans lose their federally funded unemployment benefits, barely raising a peep.
It has to be a cold day. Preferably the first really cold day of the season, when the wind has swept down from the north and left the yellow leaves dangling, threatening to fall all at once; when the still-green summer grass stands stiff and frosted. A gray mid-October day when staying at home is in order.
Summer of 1971. Our hip-hugger bell-bottom jeans are worn thin in the seat and we like to wear them with flimsy halter tops. It’s possible we are emulating the hippies in San Francisco we’ve seen on the news since hippie sightings are still rare here in Memphis, Tennessee. We will be high school seniors in the fall and this, we faintly realize, is our last summer of real freedom.
The clock is ticking and it’s making me uneasy. I’ve got those back-to-school, back-to-work, back-to-reality, check it off the to-do list, end-of-summer blues.
This year I decided the summer would be mine to do as little as possible in. I would recharge, replenish, rejuvenate. No road trips to places I hadn’t been before or to visit family. This would be the first summer in memory when I just stayed home and received whatever the day delivered.
Out here in the middle distance, the light is sometimes so harsh and bright that we want to draw the shades and just rest in cool darkness. The impulse to retreat has never been stronger than in these years approaching old age.
At home I am safe, is my mantra. At home I know who I am.
A friend asked me yesterday what’s been in the news. She had not been paying attention. Let’s see, I said. More killing in Syria, more guns flowing in so even more will be killed. Edward Snowden is holed up somewhere in Moscow while the U.S. and Russia argue about extradition. Mmmmm … The Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act and Prop 8 and gay marriage.