Monday, October 06, 2008

Parents and the Past

Last Wednesday I flew to DC (alone with both babies!), spent the night at my in-laws' house, and then Thursday at dawn flew to St. Petersburg, Florida with my mom and Eden.

St. Petersburg: flat land, stirring with grey and white haired people, hemmed in by sea walls, scented by bay and bayou, and thick with history and family lore.

Both of my parents grew up in St. Pete. My dad was friends with my mom's older brother, John, growing up (and John accompanied them -- years later when they were in their 20's -- on their first date = drinking beer on the beach).

Driving through St. Pete is driving through a map of stories. Every time we visit, we pile in the car to connect the dots of my parents' past lives, the landmarks -- 20th Ave, Coffee Pot Bayou, Boca Ciega bay that used to be as broad as a sea, Admiral Farragut Academy, Sunset Ave -- and as we retrace those steps, I try to map the route in my head, wondering if I could ever drive it alone, wondering if I have internalized the stories enough to tell my own children. And each time, it seems that I can't quite grasp the past.

It is strange that parents were 7, 13, 26 years old, that they existed so fully before we were born. That they had parents dictating and shaping them, that those parents were sprier, more authoritative versions of the "grandparents" we now know. It is strange that they listened to music that never played in our house, loved people we will never know, had roommates whose names they've forgotten and lived in spaces we'll never visit. It is strange that as fully as we know and love our parents, so much of how they arrived at who they are today is untold, unknowable, lived.

No comments: