I’ll be making my annual pilgrimage to the Twin Cities when this blog is posted. Two weeks. A sixteen-hour drive. Traveling with a five-year old and a three-year-old in the backseat. What a trip.
A pilgrimage is a journey of moral or spiritual significance. Does this road trip represent anything spiritually significant? Hard to say. I do like coming home. Seeing family and friends. Gazing at the Mississippi River. Eating Jewish deli from Cecil’s. Drinking craft beer. That sort of thing. And the journey is arduous. Solomon likes to sing in the car these days. And by sing I mean scream. He’s got stamina. Solomon can belt for hours without losing heart. Makes for an onerous pilgrimage.
I went to my mother’s grave last time I was in town. Wept like a baby. There’s some significance there, to be sure. Communing with the dead and all. I’ll see living people too. Communing with the still-breathing. That’s significant. And then it’s back in the car for a sixteen-hour drive to Pennsylvania.
I think this is my final blog that I’ll deliberately make reference to my Weepy Memoir trilogy. The image above is Michael Swearingen‘s illustrations for the epilogue of Determined Weeds which, if you’ve been reading these blogs over the past few weeks, you know is an eulogy for my mother. Seems fitting to return to the final moments in that book as I prepare to travel home.
Michael’s last picture in the book is peaceful. An innocent cat is in a bubble. This is the same demented feline that has been drinking gasoline, stabbing themselves with needles, and transforming into demons throughout the book. Now it is sleeping peacefully, floating up into the universe in a cozy vessel. Flowers bloom beneath the cat. Stars shine above them. The creature is at peace as it travels. Where’s it going? Who knows? Who cares?
I’ll always cry when I read the final page of Determined Weeds. You make peace with loss, sure. But it never really goes away, I think. Mom never really goes away. I’m glad I’ve got a book – a vessel – to hold onto stories of my mother. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The memoirs I’ve written are more tellings than anything else. They’re nothing more and nothing less than accounts of things that happened as I remembered them happening. Subjective as hell. All writing is. The books became a place for me to go to commune with the past. It’s nice to have a record, I guess. Especially as the past grows dim.
I wrote about leaving Minnesota four years ago in the epilogue of Determined Weeds. I described what it felt like to drive across the St. Croix River Bridge and leave Minnesota. It was as though I was leaving my childhood behind. Making peace with what had come before. Heavy peace. Melting into something new. “So I sped along,” I wrote four years ago, “a determined weed, struggling to find my way in an enormous, complicated universe.”
I like that line. It’s fun to return to it from here. I’m still determined, still struggling, still surrounded by an enormous, complicated universe. I have to imagine, in some ways, you are too.
I end Determined Weeds with a telling of my mother’s death. And I wrote about forgiveness. And, after nearly 300 pages of love, pain, and sorrow, I wrote a sentence that seems relevant to my anxious self. Or to other anxious selves: “I was no longer afraid of what would come next,” I wrote, “I knew that it would be okay.”
What a line. What a reminder. It’ll be okay.
Pilgrimage? My writing was a way to travel back in time and make peace. That journey taught me that it would be okay. What would? Everything. A peaceful cat in a bubble drifting through the creation. There’s a powerful lesson, there. A lesson that I know to be true, but a lesson I continue to work out as I get older. I struggle in fits and bursts of energy. Learn some things and forget others. Move and keep moving. But I’m traveling. Alive. You are too. And there’s something profound about being alive. It’ll be okay. All of it. That seems a lesson that kept emerging. Whether I wrote about my friend Nick. Or Mom. Or being a high school teacher. The words kept returning to me.
It’ll be okay.