How I Decided to Stay Home

I spent too many dark weeks agonizing over whether or not I should go to Kenesaw.

Rain poured from grey skies, washing Boston away, and I was holed up inside checking all the airline sites: comparing prices, weighing layover times and the distances from airports. I would leave on Friday morning. Transfer in Minneapolis. Land in Omaha, then three hours by car. I would leave two days later on Sunday, three hours to Omaha. Flights magically appeared and disappeared, prices fluctuated, plans changed. Indecision consumed me. Granted, part of the problem was that I was losing my mind at the time and just needed a goddamn nap, but the situation overall was a tricky one.

Located in Kenesaw in the first weekend of June was as follows: a birthday party for my grandma, also known as a major family reunion. That’s an event we don’t take lightly on my mom’s side of the family. We’re all a little scattered, from Nebraska to Colorado to Arkansas to Canada, and real family get-togethers of the extended variety have been few and far between. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve seen my grandparents, so that if someone were to ask me to describe my grandmother, the metaphors and similes wouldn’t come easily. “Well, my mom told me once that she and I share a love for reading, and she’d make a great pen pal. Also, one time I saw her put sugar packets in her purse while we were eating at The Country Buffet.”

Perhaps it is needless to say, that it wasn’t the kind of event that I could R.S.V.P to with a “sorry, but that travel sounds like a pain, and I think I’d rather get some errands run that weekend.” Who knows when I’d see these people again — if (I was constantly reminded by advisers) I’d see my grandma again. “I just really want you to see your cousins,” my mom said. “You won’t believe how similar you’ve all turned out. I think you’d have a blast.” Friends, peers, an acquaintance in Kansas City all agreed that this event wasn’t really optional.

So when I called my mother to let her know that I wouldn’t be coming in June (reasons: forty hours of travel and twelve hours in Kenesaw, travel and time is money, the last time I got on a plane I got food poisoning and wound up stuck in Detroit at midnight with nothing but my own tears and pigtails and a luggage claim lady questioning my legal adult status) only to hear my mother (my therapist’s theory: I still have a subconscious need to rebel) reply that she understood, and that this was okay . . . I was surprised. She’d really been pushing for me to come. I didn’t think this part would be so easy.

“I’ll organize something else, maybe?” I said lamely. “Maybe our cousins can meet up in a . . . more convenient location, or something, next summer.” (And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon, cooed a voice in my ear.)

“That sounds like a great idea,” my mom said. “I know . . . you’ll be missed. But if you can’t come, you can’t come.”

Relief. The promise of rest, of a weekend out of planes, out of cars, in bed with the breakfast restaurant down the street and the book I’d cozy up with near the windowsill. But mostly, the relief of a decision made. I hate drawing things out. I’ve dated men for longer than I should have, due to the blindness caused by over-deliberating. I’ve gotten poorer scores on standardized tests. Better to just decide, and finally, this decision, this three days of my life was figured out.

I’d come to regret the decision a mere two days later with a single phone message. “Just so you know, I got some results back, from a biopsy. I’ll be getting a hysterectomy sometime soon.” I called my mother back and scolded her for leaving a voice mail like that, and in this fashion neither of us communicated effectively.

I was staying home, in Boston.

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