My life was pretty simple the year I first became a
teenager. I played baseball, thought a lot about girls and, when at home, spent
as much time as possible alone in my bedroom writing and dreaming of one day
becoming a famous actor or writer, or both. And once a week I went to 7-11
and bought a slurpee in a plastic cup. The cups had an imprint of a superhero
or sport legend but I really didn’t pay attention to the cup, though I kept a
stack of them on the shelf anyway. My folks separated that year and divided the
kids up, and useless cups and other things were tossed out. I soon forgot about
innocent privacies and dreamy slurpee days.
A few weeks ago I arrived at Union Station in Washington, DC
and stopped for a moment to observe the people. I imagined their comings and
goings and reunions and goodbyes and then I imagined something else. I thought
of Esther arriving through one of those doors. There she was looking straight at me, a beam of light
pouring down upon her freckled face, bright and alive and smiling, bags in
hand, home from a very long trip. I went to her and
held on and in that moment I didn’t care about eternal mysteries or questions
about where she’d been, I only cared that she was there with me, in that place,
in that moment.
A few days later I went to the American History museum at
the Smithsonian and at the end of my long visit spotted something familiar in
a display case. It was the very type of plastic slurpee cup I had once treasured,
something I had not seen in 40 years! It surprised me that the tears I felt on my cheeks were mine, probably the only person in that corner of the museum crying
over a cup! But I wasn’t ashamed. The cups (there were many of them)
presented themselves to me as friends, somehow protected from the years, safe
and sound, protected by the glass. It was as if they wanted me to know they
were okay and assure me that I’d be okay, too.
Love may be like that, the pure recognition and acceptance of something
or someone very important to us. Friends don't care that time has passed, or
that distance may have separated them. All that matters is that they are okay.
Once upon a time they were with us as we got through impossible times. They are
still beloved friends, and daughters and husbands and pets and sometimes things. The sacred thing. Even behind glass or
in voyages of the mind, in an unguarded moment they can still present
themselves, these loyal ones that once carried us, made us who we are, loved
us, helped us dream, helped us believe.
Listen. Stop awhile in the station. You might just stumble
upon a time machine, or a bit of magic in a plastic cup.