CHAPTER 4 -"tales from sewanee"
A Multi-Part Episode
The Best Summer Ever
When I was a kid, I got to go to summer camp every year, and every summer felt like the best summer of my life. We swam in the lake, rode horses, sang songs around the campfire, did the ropes course, and most importantly stayed up giggling with our bunkmates until the wee hours of the morning. It was our home away from home and the best three weeks of our lives, because at camp you get to live with your best friends! The day our parents’ Suburbans drove into camp to pick us up, felt like the end of the world. We would all stand around crying and I remember thinking that life was never going to be fun again…
It’s been 25 years since I went to summer camp, but today is the last day of my creative writing program at Sewanee. I find myself going through all the same emotions I felt at the end of camp. My brain keeps interrupting my writing to remind me, “It’s almost over,” and suddenly I get this panicked feeling in my chest, like I don’t remember how to be anybody but who I am right now, here at Sewanee. My therapist back in Nashville always tells me these thoughts are like messages on a screen, so I don’t even have to pay attention to them. Not to mention, this thought isn’t even rational really. This experience isn’t even close to being over! The program continues every summer, just like summer camp, and I can drag out getting my master’s for 10 years if I really want to.
But do I even care about getting my master’s degree? No…not really. That’s not why I came here. I didn’t know why I came here really, but now the simplicity of my morning routine and the way the light comes over the mountain and shines on these hardwood floors makes me excited about life on a daily basis. It’s the feeling I have right now, sitting here at this table with these other writers, all of us lost in our own heads but yet we are together in this beautiful space. It’s coming home to friends and making Sunday dinner together, home in general.
I guess that’s what I’ve been missing.
For that reason, I will choose to linger, to be the last to leave in fact, so that I can take my time telling each one of my housemates goodbye. I will process every hug and every moment in the driveway with each of them with care, so as not to let a single emotion be witheld, even though it hurts, because just like camp, I know this too was destined to be a bittersweet parting from the very beginning. And since our parents aren’t showing up to take us home (well, some of us maybe), I will stand there in the drieway watching each of their cars drive away and feel thankful that I got to hold a place in each of these people’s lives for a time, that I was useful, that I made them feel good when they walked into the house. I won’t pack until I absolutely have to, and I won’t spend these last few days worrying about what is going to happen next. I’ll just enjoy each second of time in my summer home sweet home, relishing even the shadows as they pass across the sun, the brief moments of light and dark that fall across the back patio.
On the last night, I’ll probably sit on the porch and drink an entire bottle of wine by myself while listening to the chorus of secadas that has sung me to sleep every night, relishing the consistency of that one song in my life. Then I’ll sleep well in my upstairs bunk here at Rivendell, like I do at my mama’s house, knowing this is a safe place where I can feel vulnerable, where I can be myself. And the next day, there won’t be anyone standing in the driveway when I leave, but that’s ok. I know they love me. I’ll just take my time saying one last goodbye to this house where I broke bread with my friends and these evenings we shared sitting around in our pajamas, all of us seeking the Muse, all of us on a quest. I’ll get behind the wheel of Lavelle and we will drive away, but I’ll look back in my rear view mirror with a smile and I’ll see it as the best six weeks of my life. I’ll probably cry, too. Hell, I may even have to pull over on the side of the road and gaffaw…
But then I’ll turn onto the interstate and the morning sun will wash over me and I’ll suddenly feel this sense of peace again. I’ll know that the end of the best summer of my life is not something to be sad about. In fact, in the end it won’t really be over. At the end of this journey, I will see that the end was, in fact, just the beginning. It’ll be like a Tarantino film – when you suddenly realize the whole story was being told backwards. Nothing ever makes sense in those movies until the end, and sometimes even that doesn’t explain all the chaos.
But this isn’t anybody else’s movie, it’s mine. And I think I already know that this is just the beginning...