Answer, redux

by Jennifer on May 17, 2009

As if this pesky cold hasn’t slowed me down enough, I’ve also got a pretty bad case of oh my god, I have lots of packing to do. So I hope you’ll give me a pass and won’t mind a replay of this post from last year. It’s one of my favorites.


I was in the middle of nowhere, but I felt as though I had arrived at someplace important and pivotal. A place that should show on some map of my life with the words Go here.

Heavy and golden, the moonlight sank to earth on a parachute of stars and brought everything around me out of the shadows – the hulking shapes of mountains, open space, a black ribbon of road. Far away, the light of one house.

I stood in the middle of a road in northwestern Montana, shivering with the wind that ran through me like a hundred ghosts. I had stopped to get out, to look. No other car would pass by while I stood there. The night was big. The world was big. How many times had the wind that filled my lungs traveled along the curve of the earth? I breathed in, sure it told me secrets of what my life could be, how big it could be, now that it was all mine again.

Back home in Connecticut, my job waited for me and my husband did not. Our separation was new, no older than a month. With less fuss than it took to plan our wedding, we decided to break apart the marriage, each of us taking uneven halves of the whole, pieces that had never quite fit together and always left a space between two people who tried.

I settled into a new place and then took every vacation day and every bit of cash I could, and I drove – this time, from Connecticut to the western side of Montana, 5000 miles in 12 days. It was the middle of September – now, almost to the date. This time every year, I give myself over to nostalgia for that trip and for the person I was then. Brave. Unafraid to go as far as that, alone, to see something beautiful, to be changed.

And despite the disappointment of a marriage that ended, I still thought I could see ahead and predict the future, or shape it.

The joke was on me, of course. On her, on the person I was that night, eight months before I would learn that I was pregnant with my first child. Whatever I thought was brave or scary before hitched a ride to somewhere far away.

But she learned. You want scary? I told her. Having a baby is scary. Cobbling together a life with another person, with a new life between you, takes guts. Believing that it will all work out? Harder still.

At times, it’s hard for me to look at the photos from that trip. In them, I see how formed she thinks she is, how much she cushions the ache of her want, how tender she is with her hopes. How she still believes that there are answers to be found in a kiss, or on the curve of the moon.

I want to tell her what’s coming, and that she will get through it. That what is scary just might save her. That having children, though she didn’t plan it, will root her to her place in the world, no matter where or how far she goes. That she won’t want to go alone, always, and that she won’t lose herself completely, even when she is sure that she has. That one, I would tell her over and over and over. Or, I will. I do.

And most of all, even though I will never find words to explain how I know it, I would tell her that she’s right about one thing: That the moon – constant and round and white – is still, somehow, an answer.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Christy May 18, 2009 at 4:43 am

Wow, that is a beautiful post. I can’t believe you did all that by yourself–your courage is so inspiring. Even though things may have turned out differently than you thought they would at that time, I imagine that the trip left you with something you needed. Amazing writing!


Christy May 18, 2009 at 4:46 am

Oh, and the packing? I just went through all of that a couple of months ago when we moved from Ohio back to NH, and it A LOT of work and even more stress–take all the passes you need!


Jessica May 18, 2009 at 9:48 am

II remember the end of my marriage, we were two pieces that fit together perfectly in some ways and so not at all in others. Beautiful piece Jen


Madge May 18, 2009 at 11:44 am

hey. you should look for that sign that says. “macon. go there.” even though it is my turn to go see you….

i mean come and see you.


no wonder we can’t get together.


JCK May 18, 2009 at 8:00 pm

I understand why this is one of your favorites, Jennifer. It speaks of so much. And how children do shape our lives!

I will send you good thoughts as you pack for your next adventure!


jenrantsraves May 19, 2009 at 7:25 am

I must warn you – packing up all your stuff ends up bringing up a lot of “stuff” that you thought was packed away.


Coco May 19, 2009 at 10:49 am

I’ve done this too. Sifting through the memories, looking back at the girl you were.

I love, love, love Montana. Weren’t we going to Montana on our cowboy road trip? I think that was the plan.


natalie May 19, 2009 at 1:17 pm

i often think about what i would tell my 20, 25, 30 year old self about life. the words change even though the meanings are always the same.

thanks for sharing your look back.


Rhea May 19, 2009 at 7:51 pm

I remember this post from last year. It’s wonderful!!


queenie May 20, 2009 at 5:35 am

“. . . how tender she is with her hopes.”



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