Monday, August 13, 2018
Today I am 49
Last night I stayed up way too late drinking wine with my dear friend Sarah, and today I see it in my tired face and bleary eyes. But she lives far away, and our families are close, and if I have learned anything, ever, it is that the people you love are the most important parts of life, and you need to take the time when it is right in front of you.
So we carped the diem but really the evening which is a word I do not know in Latin, although I think the phrase is really about the moment or the opportunity. While I am tired today, I will tell you I don't regret it one bit.
I look at birthdays as my own personal New Year's, as a time to reflect and an opportunity to reset.
I've had a big year of returning to work, and a summer of work and fun travels in which I've barely been home. At this point my list of cities includes Cartagena, Bogota, Long Beach, Duluth, Minneapolis...I need to write about so many of these adventures in particular posts.
But on my birthday, I want to talk about roots.
A couple days ago I got an email from my cousin Patti Jo. She'd been out running errands with her son Dave, who I got to meet earlier this month. They'd run into a friend of his who had a large tree tattooed on his arm, starting with the base of the trunk at his elbow and going up to his shoulder.
And Patti Jo said, "Where are the roots?"
Later that day the friend messaged her son, showing him new ink with roots going down his forearm. I said, "You gave him roots!"
And as I said that, it struck me: in our time together, she gave me roots.
The first of this month, I took my mom and India to Duluth, Minnesota.
Duluth, if you're not familiar with it, is about 150 miles north of Minneapolis. It's on the shore of Lake Superior. You may know the Gordon Lightfoot song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, about the sinking of a ship that carried iron ore from Duluth and Superior, twin ports a bridge apart in western Lake Superior.
My Aunt Jo documented it with a painting, included here. You can also see the painting of me, and on the far right, one of my brother. He was standing next to me looking down, as I sat on the beach letting rocks trickle through my fingers, looking across Lake Superior at Aunt Jo's island.
My cousins were older than me and we always lived far apart, and so for decades we weren't in contact.
This summer, it was time.
I texted when we arrived, and Patti Jo asked what we wanted to do. My list included: visit Grandma and Grandpa's house; eat Bridgeman's ice cream; search for agates on the shore; see Aunt Jo's marina. We wanted her to come with us for any and all activities she was up for.
So we went on a nostalgia tour. We looked through photo albums and scrapbooks. And we talked. And talked.
For a long time I relied mainly on my friend family. Growing up overseas, we had all our holiday traditions with friends. And we were distant not just in miles from my dad's family.
As someone who didn't grow up with much family, it's struck me how powerful shared memory is. There's something about the way my cousin talks, her voice and her cadence, that are so much like her mom, my Aunt Jo.
In the summers, we'd stay with Aunt Jo and Uncle Howard, who lived on a big piece of beautiful land. We'd stay on Aunt Jo's houseboat. We'd cook out on the beach, and we spent hours and hours looking for agates.
We'd find rocks we thought were agates, and we'd ask, and Jo would say, "Oh, yah, that's a snot agate!"
"What's a snot agate?"
"Snot an agate."
I don't know if humor is genetic, but I feel it is, because the Jordans are all tickled by the same kinds of things.
Patti Jo has been going through photos, compiling albums and scrapooks. This is our great grandmother Olga. I see my face in hers. If she had a sense of humor, I'm going to be I'd have liked it. It's unclear from this photo, however.
I left Duluth with a greater feeling of belonging, of understanding our generations of family, of being connected.
I felt, after so many years, rooted. And that was a gift I didn't even know I was hoping for.
Much love to all of you. Thanks for joining me as I start this big year ahead.