We don’t have our own mailbox.
Instead, there is a big square mailbox with lots of little cubbies at the bottom of our street. Naturally, checking the mail becomes a social event, of “hi, hello, how are you?”
At the mailbox, I meet my elderly neighbor down the road. We exchange “hi, hello, how are you?” when suddenly, I am overcome with a shock of Coppertone Sport emanating from her wrinkled skin. That well-remembered smell of soured chemicals and plastic creates a flicker of joy in my heart. Coppertone Sport means a family day of water and wetness. I race up and down the stairs with my brothers, gathering towels, beach chairs, goggles, and our inflatable Slip-n-Slide. I furiously rub the creamy stuff on my brothers backs, trying to make the sludgy white streaks disappear. It is exhausting work, but it is my duty.
They say, sometimes, you have to go backwards to go forwards. But what if you aren’t familiar with the roads, what if you get lost, and what if you don’t know where you are headed in the first place?
Behold, the entrenchment, the quicksand of Limbo! Limbo is a time and space where the unknown prevails. Limbo has no stars pointing North. Your feathers are ruffled, and it feels restless, uneasy. But really, there is nothing to do about it except to relax, stop struggling, and wait for it to pass. You know this, but you forget it often.
Home is a great place to spend Limbo. At home, you are not concerned if things move forwards or backwards. You can stay in your pajamas. You can even check the mail in your pajamas (guilty). No one will bother you if you shut the curtains, stop answering the land-line, and ignore the doorbell, with exceptions for the water-guy and the Girl Scouts, for survival of course. You can find a sunny spot with shades of spring and lay there all day if you like, lost in the sounds and scents of old memories, good memories, reviving.
I see red baby strawberries poking out in the fields along the 101 freeway. Suddenly, I am back at the kitchen table, low on steam after a long day at middle school. Like clockwork, Mom places a Kirkland paper plate filled with bright red strawberries under my nose. They are refreshingly cold, but not too cold to bite into. She has cut all of the green stems off so that when I pick one up, it leaves a red smooch mark stamped on the plate. I dip the berries in sugar. I feel much better.
I am jogging around the park in the thick grass and notice myself catching a burst of velocity as I run down the well-known groove that my brothers and I created fifteen years ago when this park was first born. You really cannot imagine how many times we rode our bikes down the hill, in this very same spot, every time, stunting the growth of that poor baby grass. We never even gave it a chance to mature. Nevertheless, this muddy patch is a happy road.
I’m out in the backyard doing my sirsasana, headstand. The house is quiet, and I don’t have anywhere to be, but upside-down. From upside-down, I watch the little birds play a game of hide-and-seek in our Bougainvillea. Gosh, they are loud, and bold! Suddenly, I remember the sight of Luke bounding joyfully after those clever birds. Always, always, his efforts were in vain. The memory makes me laugh so much that I lose my balance and fall over. My feet get a little muddy.
I am barefoot in the dirt, harvesting the produce from our mini orchard. I feel like a real farmer, picking the large crunchy guavas, the soft tomatoes, perfect oranges, and the plentiful lemons from the trees that we planted when I was young. Back then, I could only dream of doing this one day, as the trees did not grow fruit yet. I cut open a lemon. It is the sweetest lemon I have ever tasted. I eat it like I would an orange.
You know, I have not lived here, in my home, in this neighborhood, for almost eight years. A few more doors are painted red. A couple more houses are painted brown. Yet, the snapshot photograph that I took before I embarked on my travels, remains quite accurate. My memories of childhood are vivid, crisp, fresh. It is quite effortless to go back. A soft sound, faint fragrance, familiar sight, and poof! I am gone in an instant to that time before that I know so well.
Wow. Aren’t we amazing? Can you imagine how many movies that we retain and replay with our senses? This will never cease to amaze me. I wonder how this filter really works?
Anyway, I am not concerned about any answers, for today. Already, the ice is thawing as Limbo begins to dissipate. In just a few weeks, I set sail for Boston on a new adventure. (More news about this to come!) My time here, wrapped in home-grown goodness is limited and temporary at best. I plan to soak in it for as long as possible.
If you want to find me, meet me at the mailbox.
- good-for-you carrot cake
- the 150-foot-journey