We went camping last weekend with a bunch of friends. It was cold and foggy but perfection all the same. Communal meals over a campfire, kids running as a pack for all their waking hours, parents sitting around sipping coffee or wine, depending on the clock, chatting, reading magazines. When do I get a chance to read a magazine?
After dark on Saturday night, the guitars came out. I would dearly love to have the ability to play the guitar and/or have a confident singing voice. Tragically, I have neither. But I'll happily hum along in the background while others take center stage.
Our friends, June and RJ, are musicians. It seems like I've known them for decades, they're that kind of people. In fact, I met them at a costume fundraiser for the elementary school a couple years ago. I recommend starting a friendship in costume, it lends a certain intimacy and light-heartedness. The theme was "British Invasion". Ben and RJ had matching Beatle wigs. June and I had some serious mod going. In real, non-fundraiser life, RJ shaves his head. Whenever I see him, in some back corner of my brain I wonder where that mop of hair went. That cheap wig was my first impression of him and it seems like it should always be there. Dude, where's your hamster-colored plastic hair?
RJ and June have proved to be full A-Team. They are funny, they are wise, they are more positive than I could ever hope to be. They are so cool they have a band together. At the campfire, they sang some of their songs. The music was beautiful, their sons would jump in on harmonies, it was plenty impressive.
At one point, they played a song called "The Bridge". It went a little something like this:
"Just drove over the bridge
Thank god I can't see
The city from my rear view mirror
Just the car in front of me
I'm going to miss you
I'm going to say your name a lot
When we moved to San Jose two years ago, the kids and I drove across the Golden Gate. I had Julie Andrews belting "I Have Confidence" (because I had little), the kids were killing each other in the back seat of the Prius, I was reaching behind me to pull Mae's nails out of Lana's arm, Mihiretu was shrieking. As I crossed the Marin-San Francisco border, right in the middle of the bridge, I white-knuckled the wheel and stared ahead intently. I couldn't look behind me, I couldn't think about what I was losing. I was driving out of my life, into oblivion, but at that point, all I could do was go forward and hope for the best.
My friend, Jan, had said that sirens would go off when we crossed that border, it was so against nature for us to leave Marin. Our beloved, weathered, yellow happy face antenna ball jumped ship at some point on that journey. I have an image of him saying, "Screw you guys, I'm outta here," and leaping to his death off the bridge, a fading "Good luck with thaaaaaaat" as he fell.
I spent a year saying my friends names a lot, my wonderful collection of people, handpicked over years - curated, really - for their grace, their depth, their humor. I'm sure my few, hard-won San Jose friends were tired of hearing about these people they'd never met. And then, one year ago Monday, we drove back across that bridge. Every single day of this past year, I've had at least one moment of pure joy, so so happy to be here, among my people, in my place.
That thing about how you can't go home again is bullshit, I'm here to say. I've crossed that bridge, over that dangerous water, into a foreign land and been able to cross back again. And home is all the sweeter for it. Gazing around the campfire last weekend, the golden glow lighting the faces of the sleepy kids, many of whom I've known since the pregnancy test, the grinning adults, I knew exactly how good I have it.