It is the summer of 1988 and my mom and dad and sister and I are driving from St. Louis to Colonial Williamsburg and then Washington D.C. We play the license plate game and I fill the back of our rental car with vintage candy wrappers – papers that multicolored candy buttons once stuck to, and sticky elastics that were once candy necklaces, and empty pixie sticks. My tongue is electric blue for days.
In D.C. we go to the White House and the Lincoln Memorial and the Smithsonian where I am most intrigued by one of Mr. Rogers’ cardigans.
I am 27 and in the south of France on vacation with my boyfriend of four months and his family. We are staying on a beautiful two-house property with a lap pool surrounded by bamboo and the Mediterranean Sea. There are plum trees on the property and views of terraced vineyards and we are only a twenty minute drive from St. Tropez. I am a 127 pounds, a weight I will dream about years from now when I am a married mother of a baby and too busy for the kind of workouts that once maintained such a figure.
The boyfriend and I fight every single day of our trip and one morning I go for a walk and burst into tears. I am young and thin with a rich, handsome boyfriend, on vacation in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I am so lost and so sad. I’m trespassing on a vineyard and suddenly a man is speaking to me in french and I can’t understand him and I can’t stop crying and my boyfriend, who speaks several languages but doesn’t even try to understand me, is back at that beautiful house with the pool and the stone floors, and in that moment all I want is to be home in Chicago in my own room with my cat and nobody else.
It’s June, 2012, and I am poolside in the Dominican Republic with my husband and my baby. I am not thin and I am not rich and I am no longer young. I see little lizards every day and point them out to my baby who is too small still to care about such things. I think of a million stories and essays and books I want to write and the time I wasted when I had no one but me to worry about. I tell my husband that I have to go back up to the room for a minute and while I’m there I pour myself a glass of wine, open the iPad, and start typing about vacations past. I glance out the window and my husband is holding our baby and looking up toward our room searching for me. I close the iPad, finish my wine, and head back down. It’s hot, and the stories will wait for another day.