Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday November 26, 2010

It's the end of the second day of a four day weekend, the best holiday of the year. The holiday that really isn't about much more than cooking a big meal, eating it with friends or family, and relaxing; maybe watching football if you're into that sort of thing, or watching holiday movies, playing games, reading. That is, if you're lucky enough to have the time off, of course, which many are not.

It's a really cold weekend here in Reno. It snowed on Tuesday and then got cold, temperatures going into the single digits over night, so things were frozen for the commute to school the next day. Still, when the sun came out and the temperature warmed up to 25˚ or so, the ice melted. I went out to buy snow boots for the kids, then shoveled the snow to give the sun a fighting chance. It was very light and powdery, and frozen on the sidewalks from when it had been warmer and slushy. Thankfully there wasn't much of it.

Today I went to Absolute Music and rented a violin. I have this secret fantasy that somehow I'll manage to be a better at playing the violin than I am at playing the viola. I love to have fantasies where I accomplish things like this; hope springing eternal making life worth living, I guess. Yesterday we had a friend over for Thanksgiving dinner. I drank a glass of wine, then became extremely sleepy, so I went to take a catnap while waiting on the oven buzzer. I lay down on the bed with an arm overhead, but instead of falling asleep, I fell into sleepy reminiscing. At first about Thanksgiving Days of Long Past, then onto China, as the more times passes, the less I remember of our trip. I was thinking of how memories are so intangible and what you have of them sort of becomes hardened into your brain circuits like plaque, but it's just a residue of something that was real. In fact, most of my early life feels that way. I guess like the majority of people, I feel more connected to the childhood memories that I've known as memories for so much longer. It seems like my 20s happened to another person almost.

When I was in China this past summer, I was so excited and yet disappointed at things; it was a heartwarming feeling when things were familiar, yet a letdown that things had changed so greatly. The overwhelming feeling I had was to realize how fortunate I was to get to experience 8 weeks of China in the 80's. I'm not sure I was convinced at the time, when I was so homesick and just plain hot, but I don't think I could have those experiences now--just get on a bus and go where I wanted? It was impossible on this trip. One of the things I knew about China was that I loved, loved, loved Hangzhou. But when I tried to compare it to my new experiences in Hangzhou, I couldn't actually recall more than a few images, some of which were me seeing myself as I appeared in my photo album.

Hangzhou seemed refreshing after the heat of Shanghai. It was green and cooler, as I recall. It didn't rain while we were there, but it was humid, of course. I remember walking out of our hotel in the afternoon with some women from my unit. We walked down a street that had an air of familiarity around it. Lots of trees growing near the street, which looked like a fairly recent development. The road looked fairly recently cut into the earth, the way some of the housing developments my father built homes in looked to me, but there were sidewalks, shops and lamposts along the way we walked, and we could look into the bakery window and see the goods displayed. It seemed quaint and almost European, except set out the woods. And we rode a boat on the lake, it was lovely. Yet, this was all I remember. I don't remember what food we ate, I can't remember the hotel at all, or even eating a single meal there.

I didn't realize I remembered so little about Hangzhou until I returned, and was trying to compare experiences. I didn't realize I remembered so few of my Thanksgivings as a child. Inevitably, I return to the Thanksgiving when I was 7, almost 8, and lived out in Catlett, Virginia. Or I think of one of the Thanksgiving dinners in the condo in Summertree, although those all blend together into one representative days. I can't discern the differences. I suppose this is why we are always exhorted to exist in the moment, to enjoy the present, to live for today since we don't know what the future will bring. Of course our experiences always affect who we are in the moment, but really, it feels like we are different people when we consider our pasts.

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