I’ve been back here for less than 24 hours and I’m so antsy I don’t even know what to do with myself. It’s not even 10 am and that bottle of Fireball looks oddly inviting (back on Tybee, that’s pretty normal for a Sunday morning, but around here…) The annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage to Northern Virginia is in full swing and it’s almost as if this area is doing everything in it’s power to remind me of why I don’t live here anymore.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking… “a week with the the parents and in-laws… that would do it to me too…” but that’s not it at all. I can actually say that I like my family, and my in-laws and as crazy as it sounds, they like each other! We’ve been spending Thanksgiving together as an extended family for nearly 20 years. My brother in law and his family will also be here, as well as our oldest, who’s current Coast Guard station is less than an hour from here. Truly, the only reason we continue to make this journey is our family.
But then there’s all the rest of it.
1. It’s FREAKIN’ COLD! I’m currently bundled up like the little kid from A Christmas Story (I’m serious… 2 pair of pants, 2 shirts, a sweatshirt, a hoodie, a jacket and a hat) just so I can sit outside in the sunshine (the forecast for the next few days is low 40′s and rain… the typical Virginia weather this time of year) even though it’s 32 degrees and going up to a whopping 36… for the high! I slept under a pile of blankets last night that would make a Yukon trapper jealous and the wood stove might end up becoming my new best friend. I spent the first 18 years of my life in Michigan, and everyone I know back there just laughs and tells me I’ve “gone soft.” I choose to look at it a little differently. If you routinely slam your hand in the car door, you can either get used to the pain of slamming your hand in the car door or you can STOP SLAMMING YOUR HAND IN THE CAR DOOR! I didn’t get “soft”, I got SMART and moved somewhere warm.
2. Over the span of 2 days, I drove a little over 9 hours on the same road, with average speeds of 75 miles per hour. This all came to a literal “screeching halt” as we neared the invisible line of demarkation for “Northern Virginia,” U.S. Route 1, Fredericksburg. I HATE TRAFFIC! I can go for days without even starting my car back on Tybee. I can walk to the grocery store and our youngest daughter can ride her bike to school (the other girls go to school on-line from the deck of our apartment… overlooking the ocean) Even during the height of the “busy season” on our tiny little island, it’s pretty much like Tuesday… any Tuesday of any week of the year, back here in N.VA.
3. The idiot box. For the most part, I haven’t had a television in close to 4 years. Oh, I own a television, but it spends most of its time in the box, behind the sofa. My father-in-law loves him some television. He’s got one in the living room, one in the great room, one in the bed room… there’s even one in the kitchen… and the stupid things just suck you in. I actually sat for a couple of hours yesterday watching a “reality” show about people who live in some remote village in Alaska, which is even colder than Northern Virginia. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for living off the land and there’s an ever growing part of me that longs to be “off the grid”, but when that time comes, you better believe it’s gonna be somewhere warm! HELLO! A sled pulled by dogs is a weird method of transportation… At the end of the evening, we all gathered to watch a movie about a couple who decided to leave he hustle and bustle of New York City to join an “intentional community”. One of the characters said “boo, hiss to calling it a commune.” At one point in the movie, the main character sees a guy out in front of a crazy tree house and asks, “do you live here?” To which, the reply comes “I don’t live here… I live where I am. I take my rest here.” Which leads me to my last point, because I feel like I’m just complaining now (I’m going to have to write an entire post about the commercial that nearly made the top of my head come off!)
4. As we made our way down the twisting roads that lead to my in-law’s place, sign after sign greeted us with “Homes from the low 400′s.” Town house development after town house development, all in various stages of construction. “Neighborhoods” carved out of what used to be woods, filled with people too busy to even know their neighbors. “Four hundred thousand dollars and they can’t even see the ocean…” was all Wen could say. No thanks… I’ll stick to my tiny 2 bedroom apartment with the sound of the waves just outside the window.
I had hoped that sitting outside in the sunshine on a freezing cold day, smoking a cigar and dumping all of this onto the page (and I do actually write the first draft of every page the old fashioned way… pen on paper) would ease my anxiety, but I’m still all cranked up inside. Maybe I’ll see if I can find the Detroit Lions game on one of the myriad T.V.’s scattered throughout the house and watch a team with arguably the most talent of any in the NFL, snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory again this week. This sounds strangely less stressful.
p.s. I put my pen down and decided to take a walk through the 15 acres of woods behind the house. I had made the decision to do this a couple of times a day while here, seeing how the alternative was to just sit around drinking beer… I know I need the exercise and my waistline could use a break from the suds. The wind kicked up almost immediately, as if to try to chase me back to the front porch, and the beer, but I kept on anyway. Nothing but the sound of the whipping wind, the crunch of the gravel and leaves beneath my boots, and the roar of the thoughts in my head. And as the noise began to subside, a curious phrase began to roll around in my head… “a quiet discontent”, and now that I have a name for it, I’m somehow a little less anxious. Oh, and the Lions were down by 3 with a minute to go and within field goal range to tie the game, but decided instead to throw an interception… so there’s that.