Turning 50 had put Shelley in a pensive mood. She found herself staring often, caught up in thoughts. Thinking. Pondering.
There were the obvious thoughts. My life is half over. I don’t feel 50. How did this happen so fast? How did I get here? (Talking Heads, people. Look it up).
In her mood of contemplation, Shelley told her husband she wanted to go to New York for a visit. She hadn’t seen her cousin in a while, and it had been too long since they had spent time in her beloved city. She hadn’t lived in New York for a long time, but her deep connection to the place had never faded. After all, it was where she and Tom had met. It was where her business had taken off. Yes, eventually she sold the business so she could take care of her boys. But this time, her sister would take care of them. They booked a long weekend.
What a fabulous trip! Swanky hotel! Beautiful crisp New York weather! Familiar and new sights! Hot sex! Shelley and Tom dreamed and planned incessantly. The boys would love it here! The culture is unequaled. Think of all the things to do every single weekend! Everywhere they walked, the shops were vibrant, the food impeccable. The corner where they had their first kiss? Well, of course they repeated the memory. All the warm feelings of falling-in-love days simmered inside them. New York was it. They had to move.
After the flight home, Shelley woke up ragged. She poured a strong cup of brew and looked around her kitchen. Tom had remodeled it 5 years before. Her cookbooks were just where she liked them. The boys were reading in the breakfast nook. Behind them, the sun had just begun to bathe the apple orchard in morning light. Their dog Hank was chasing a crow around the backyard. Pulling her thick robe around her, she thought for the millionth time how cold it was in the house. The 1920’s era heater had kicked last month. And yet…her coffee had never tasted so good. And she had never felt so warm.
Tom came home after work, tired and achy. As she rubbed his shoulders, she told him what she’d been thinking all day. She wanted to stay. They’d be working like slaves if they moved just to afford a nice place and of course a private school. They would have to abandon their dreams of traveling the world. She would miss her friends dearly, and the boys couldn’t live without the treehouse. As she stated her case, she looked down at his head and inhaled the sweet smells of wood, grease, hard work and the country. When she finished talking, she paused and waited for his response. He turned around to look up at her, and slowly, knowingly, he smiled.
Nowadays Shelley has been busy readying the apple orchard, chasing the occasional mole and hauling wood. The heater’s not fixed but it’s not that cold, really. It’ll keep. And she tells herself maybe 50 isn’t the new 40. (There’s not a 40 year old out there that would say that anyway). Of course she doesn’t feel 50, but what’s 50 supposed to feel like? There’s no going back to a life that’s already been lived. The best life to live, she concludes, is the one that’s ahead of you. And there’s still plenty of time for that. At 50, you know things that you didn’t know at 20, 30 or even 40. Lots of things. Like where home is. And where you belong.
photo by Barbara Paulsen at tandemechoes.com.