You Are Here

ESSAY-August 2009

by Rebecca Falzano

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”       -Henry David Thoreau


RebeccaFalzano_gray_wThe last several days have started with a thick ghost-like mist rising off Casco Bay, drifting uphill and then settling into the yard. There it sits like a heavy cloud covering everything in sight, threatening to enter the house through open windows that are hoping for sun. When it is here, nothing can escape its dampness: sheets, towels, clothing. And when it’s not—even in a blazing heat—the cold, wet vapor reappears suddenly in the sky, a reminder that here by the water, humidity’s grasp is never far.

This weekend, far from the fog, my grandmother’s ashes took their final resting place in the ground next to my grandfather’s. Miles away, the home they made together decades ago stands newly renovated with a fresh coat of paint, pristine windows, and a new gate where an old white picket fence once stood. Inside, the green wall-to-wall carpeting has likely been replaced as well—it once served as a backdrop to photos of the grandchildren lining the stairs on countless Christmas Eves. The family who lives there now will make new memories here before leaving to make more memories elsewhere. So is life, and life goes on.

Another birthday has just arrived, so the idea of aging becomes front-and-center for a day. Friends visit with a toddler and remind me how new and unexplored life is at first. Like most kids, I spent a lot of time playing make-believe, enjoying the present by imagining the future. I think of my four late grandparents, and how whenever they talked about growing old, it always felt so far off, in the distant future. I remember one day, while playing in my grandparents’ attic, I uncovered a stack of letters my grandfather had written to my grandmother when they were newlyweds and he was serving in World War II. I was too young to understand why the letters fascinated me—but now I know that it was because I was holding in my hands a rare glimpse into their youth. As I try to envision them at my age now, with babies and jobs and daily routines, I wonder how aging happens so gradually and yet all at once.

As the fog recedes into the afternoon, I watch a man delivering groceries to an elderly woman across the street. He hands her the items one by one and then goes on his way. She looks like a neighbor I had in New York who would spend her days sweeping her front steps and saying hello to everyone who passed by. She would sometimes compliment the way I looked and tell me she used to be beautiful once. “You still are,” I would say to her and she would smile and sigh and go back to her sweeping.

A few days later, the promise of sun has led me outside. I find myself on a trail stopped at a map. Along the serrated coastline, a big red circle and capitalized “YOU ARE HERE” points out my location. As I stare at this marker, something beyond my physical position becomes clear. The fog has lifted, finally, and as it does, I feel the ghost of my grandparents reminding me: You are here. Now. Relish the moment.

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