April 12, 2010

Family Trip

I am leaving for London tomorrow morning on the first real family trip the Whites have taken since Laura died. We used to take family trips yearly, and usually more than one. Yellowstone, Santa Fe, Mesa Verde, Yosemite, Hawaii, Amsterdam. We visited Homagin every summer, usually in August, which by no small accident came to be my favorite month of the year. My father had plenty of vacation time, and so we traveled. We also took trips with the extended White family, usually to celebrate birthdays or anniversaries. Alaska, Hawaii, Florida. I saw a lot of this country before I was really old enough to appreciate it. The memories are a bit faded and fuzzy, little specific events punctuating lost time. On Maui, I told my Great Aunt Margaret that there were geckos in her bed, terrifying her. In the Alaskan rainforest, a wilderness guide tells our tour group that the bogs are so deep bicyclists get lost in them, and shows us a tiny carnivorous plant that looks like a little orange gummy candy. At Mesa Verde, Laura and I climb through the sandy windows of ancient plateau homes, where the Anasazi tried their hands at agriculture. In Santa Fe, my mother buys me a turquoise and silver bracelet, which I still regret the later loss of. At Yellowstone, Laura is terrified of the geysers and boiling springs, and is miserable. On our cruise ship on the western coast of Canada, we run up the escalator the wrong way, and I fall and bruise my knee. On Gwynn's Island we play bicycle tag with our cousins, the whole island our playground as we tear through the thick woods on secret roads. In Amsterdam Laura is sad and we stay in our hotel room and eat bowls of asparagus soup; she doesn't want to go outside.

We spent hours in the backseats of cars, many of them white and rented. The family traveled together, but Laura was my partner; where she went, I went. We explored London together, hopping on the underground as if the whole city was an amusement park--the tube its pastel-painted gondola or plastic-seated tram. We groaned through family photos, stealing dignity from ruins at Yorktown, Bruge, and the Valley of the Ancients with our silly faces. The last trip I took with her was such a long time ago, now. I think it may have been to Homagin. I feel like I am leaving her here, which is nonsensical. I will have a good time, and try to celebrate my birthday and the good things that have happened. But I will know that she is not with me when driving through the Costwolds, I find the seat next to me empty.

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