This past weekend, I flew home to Memphis for my 25-year high school reunion.
It’s weird isn’t it? There were a bunch of think pieces a few years ago about the decreasing need and desire to go to reunions given the rise of Facebook. But with Facebook having caused so many fights, toxicity, and—yunno—end of democracy in the last year or so, the need for ditching it, flying home, and spending an evening face-to-face with people you grew up with seems all the more imperative.
At least for me.
Also, I didn’t feel like I got a great visit in December, given kids and some family chaos. So I’d been looking for an excuse to come home even if just for a few days. That and April is one of the best months here weather-wise. I checked the weather and packed all of the dresses, shorts, tanks and things I can’t really wear in SF.
I decided to come alone. I feel like the 10-year reunion is a time you want to scope out everyone’s significant others. By the time you hit 25 it’s like: Yeah, I just wanna bring my friends and don’t want anyone bored in the corner pleading with me to leave early. I would have brought Eli in an ideal world, because I brought Evie to my last reunion. But it was a daddy weekend, and we’ve had a ton of travel lately.
Recently when we were at Disneyland, I was up at 1am or so trying to squeeze some work into the day and I was surrounded by the up-and-down breathing of Paul and my kids all in deep slumber after a day of chaos and churros and rides,and lines and “EVIE! EVIE! EVIE!” I realized there’d never been a more relaxing sound to my ears than the in-and-out quiet breathing of the three of them. Once you find you prefer the sound of your kids and boyfriend sleeping to lapping waves of the ocean…It’s a sign perhaps you could use a few days of “me time” away from them all.
But I had to do one other thing to do first. I had to read Brothers Karamazov.
My mom is a Dostoyevski scholar and taught my high school English class Brothers. My dad was a philosophy professor and taught my college philosophy of religion class the “Grand Inquisitor” portion of the book. And yet, I don’t think I ever finished reading it.
My long-retired parents had—by popular demand—decided to teach the book to an amalgamation of groupies. And wouldn’t you know it? My trip coincided with one of the sessions.
I pretty much had three options:
- Not go. Total jerk move given what it represented of their lives work and I WAS ALREADY IN THE HOUSE WHERE THE MEETING WAS GOING TO HAPPEN.
- Go and—for the third time—pretend I’d read it.
- Start reading.
I binge-audio’d the entire book in the days leading to my flight home and finished it just as we were landing in Memphis. As I was listening to Debra Winger read the final chapter, I looked out my window. I rarely look out the window when I’m flying into Memphis. I’m usually dealing with a child or writing something or reading something, cramming things in those final moments.
I watched the Mississippi River snake below the plane and the downtown skyline come into view. I suddenly remembered something my mom wrote me in a letter when I was in junior high. I’d gone on a plane to visit my cousins in Mississippi—definitely my first time on a plane and it was just a small commuter jet. She must have been worried I’d be nervous up there in the air all alone. I’m not sure my older siblings had even flown before.
She told me that when the plane crossed over downtown, it would turn to the left and loop around before heading back the opposite way to the airport to land. “Look out the window if you are on the left side of the plane and look for Rhodes,” she wrote. “You’ll be able to find home from the air. We’ll be down there waiting on you.”
Debra Winger recounted the last scene where the kids are all shouting “Hooray for Karamazov!” as these memories of all my mother did for me came flooding back. How hard would it have been to finish this book the first time? Why are kids always so ungrateful?
I looked and looked and looked. All I wanted to see was home. But I was on the right side of the plane.
Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom: