Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Belongings. I don't wear the skort, the skort wears me

I bought a new skort at LL Bean today. Pretty heady stuff.

The skort has purple polka dots on it, and when I tried it on at the store and looked in the mirror I actually thought "this is cute!" Clearly I have lost my mind in the heat.

We are spending July in a seaside enclave of sailboats and tennis tournaments and ringing bicycle bells and houses with names (none of which belong to me, I might add) and moms in skorts (I think I will name my skort since I don't have a bike or a house - suggestions welcome, I am considering "Muffy").

I grew up across the water, a year-round townie to this neighboring summer community, and I remain strictly a day tripper. My relatives have been kind enough to extend an invitation to stay with them this summer so that Max and Lucy can attend day camp for the month - something I was never able to do myself as a child and had always wanted to. I cannot imagine life without this magical, wondrous place, so for as long as I can remember, I have done whatever I can to spend as much time here each summer as possible. This year is no exception. I drive a borrowed car and ride a borrowed bike. My children sail in a borrowed boat and I cook hotdogs for dinner on a borrowed BBQ. I am living someone else's life, and it's a pretty sweet one.

This place really is heaven on earth for children, who "rule the road" as the police chief informed us all at the start of summer. My kids have joined the roving packs of helmeted hooligans with zinc oxide smeared all over their faces and ears, tearing through the narrow streets with towels around their necks and life jackets flapping from their handlebars as they ride from sailing to golf to art classes, with plenty of beach time throughout the day. They have thrown themselves into life here, and collapse into bed each night with grins on their golden faces and sand between their toes, feet black from street tar and the oil off their bike chains. They are one of the gang, my childhood dreams realized at last in their hazy summer days.

Despite finally being an actual bona fide member of the literal and figurative "club", and despite being born and raised a mile away, I remain, somehow, the interloper. I don't think I am imagining it, although of course I could be. I think it all stems from my insecurity about the fact that I have never spent a night on this side of the aqueduct, never participated in the day camp and never belonged to the club - until now. In fact, this is my first year of legitimately participating in the summer activities and events, instead of being snuck in by a cousin or friend. As recently as last summer I attended a club cocktail party under an assumed name.

But even with membership, I'm still a commuter. Therefore, the first hint that I do not belong is our arrival each morning by car. The preferred method of transportation here is a bicycle, or perhaps a slow jog. We, on the other hand, drive to sailing because we are late, as always, and I do not have time to ride a bike - or jog, for fuck's sake. I have not showered and my hair is doing something interesting that I tried - and failed - to disguise under a pastel print bandanna that I found under my seat. As I crawl around in the boat shed looking for the sail bag, I worry that my underwear might be hanging out of my cut off shorts.

At least I am wearing underwear this time. Credit where credit is due, please.

The cut-off shorts themselves are cause for concern. I may be the only mother in town wearing frayed denim, with tattoos peeking out around the waistband. I have my enormous Old Navy sunglasses perched on top of my head because I lost my regulation Ray Bans. The yellow parking permit is glaring brightly on my (borrowed) bumper, amidst the sea of bicycles with wicker baskets on the front and tennis balls in the wheels.

Once the sail has been located and hoisted we drive the car carefully through the children frantically pedaling off in all directions, and their mothers pedaling off in different directions. I park at my aunt's house and we retrieve the (borrowed) bicycles from her garage. The kids put on borrowed life jackets and grab borrowed towels. We head to the beach where I sit on a borrowed chair wearing a one piece skirted bathing suit (not borrowed) that carefully covers the tattoos and also conveniently covers the skin that has begun to sag and ripple in new and unfortunate ways this year.

I sit with family and friends and friends who are family, in a place I have memorized and dream about all winter. It is where generations of my family have fallen in love and fallen to pieces. This place holds us together, somehow. And I have brought Max and Lucy here in pursuit of my life-long dream of fitting in. I thought I would get over that vague but irritating desire to belong after high school, but sadly that nagging itch has persisted all these many years. And while this place is just a mile from my hometown, in some respects it is worlds away. So I took the kids over the aqueduct to the village store, with it's honest to goodness soda fountain and beloved spinning stools at the counter. A place I have spent countless winter hours reading comic books and eating penny candy. A place I truly belong without question - no membership required. And as I sat there with my kids one Saturday morning eating breakfast and spinning happily in dizzying circles, a man two stools down from me - a man who for all I know could have been related to me, so tightly is my family woven into this community - began a loud conversation about the latest news from Egypt with the comment ".....all these 'towel head' countries".

I froze. I froze right there on my stool, mid-spin. And I looked at my beloved husband, who is Lebanese and Syrian and Irish but mostly Lebanese and definitely from "those countries" and I looked at our beautiful children, and I realized at that moment that I did not belong there - in that place where I thought I most definitely belonged - either.

My life on Maui seems so far away here. It is strange that my sense of self seems to fade in the one place where it should be the very strongest. And the place that I moved to as an adult, knowing only a handful of people, has become the place where I feel most comfortable. I miss my Maui family and my house and my car and my sweet dog. I belong there - I know I do - but I was not "born and raised" on Maui and so there, too, I am an outsider in a way.

But I don't let it bother me there, and I won't let it bother me here either.

I belong. We all belong. There is no time to feel excluded. There is no time for prejudice. There is room enough for all of us, wherever we choose to be.

Unless you choose to be in a polka dotted skort. We do not all belong in polka dotted skorts. There. I said it.


50Peach said...

Favorite lines: 'I sit with family and friends and friends who are family, in a place I have memorized and dream about all winter. It is where generations of my family have fallen in love and fallen to pieces. This place holds us together, somehow.' Gorgeous, girl.

I'm sorry about the slap in the face of a reminder about where you belong. Sometimes when you have no roots, you must make your own. And you have. xox

Chantal said...
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