your own adventure
There was a Choose Your Own Adventure book that I read in grade school. It was about making your way through a haunted house, and it terrifed me. Of course, I read it over and over and over - until my signatures were the only marks on the checkout card tucked into the front cover. It was only when I knew the entire book from cover to cover, with no choice unexplored, that the book began to lose its heavy grip on my adrenalin. Knowledge fills the hole that fear makes a home in.
I was reminded of this book, however, over the weekend. One of the turns you could take in this haunted house was to open a door that led to a room that was made up to look exactly like your own childhood bedroom - with all your familiar toys, furniture, posters, blankets. But if you chose to sleep with your feet too close to the edge of the bed, a monster would reach up from underneath and, well...eat you. It was the scariest place in the book, for me, because it was about a malevolent world using familiarity to catch you off guard. To this day, I can't sleep with my feet too close to the edge of the bed - and, being six feet tall, this can be something of a trick to work around.
In any case, I was invited into a home that bore intense resemblance to my own parents', down to the most minute details. A father that, in carriage and manner and even hairstyle, is strikingly similar to my own. Same fake flowers. Same color walls, cabinets, furniture. Same faux-marble shower. Same cat toys. Same bookshelf. Same luxury suburban subdivision with the same landscaping. Same homogenized-America-meets-random-knickknacks-from-forays-'round-the-world.
I'm sorry, my mom told me once. I'm sorry, sometimes, that when we were raising you we didn't have a house like this. A yard like this.
That's bollocks. I had so much more. I didn't need custom cabinets to have an enviable childhood. I'd have taken our cement-block base housing any day of the week.
So, in this place of almost too much familiarness, being gently explored in conversation and fed wonderful blackened salmon and plied with cookies and being shown the quilt room and knowing already about Ott Lites and advanced washing machine technology, I reacquainted myself with the list of things I say about myself. Who am I, in bullet points? Do you like it? Is it acceptable? How do I compare?
I had wanted so badly to show you my Napa - my hilltops, the long drives through greenness and gold light, that house by the creek that still pops up in my dreams. Oakville Grocery chocolate. Cabernet Sauvignon, done perfectly. Your skin glowed perceptibly under that sun that I remember with such squeezing fondness. I have some of your geography, now, and you have some of mine. Such old maps, and getting older, but these are new roads.
This is a moment of major accomplishments, discoveries, transitions. This makes graduation speeches sensical, if hokey. This is new. This is good. This is ours.