As some of you know, Keil Bay is 27 years old now. He has always seemed far younger than his actual age, but I see white and silvery hairs in his mane and tail, and around his eyes, and this year have seen some changes that make it clear even through my wall of denial that he's aging. If I think about it too much I start crying. Just the idea of him not being here is heart-breaking. So seeing him trot in, hearing his gorgeous musical whinny, and seeing that white star and bright eyes pop into the back stall door was a huge and wonderful gift. I wish I could start all over again with him, from the moment we met all the way up to today.
In another time traveling moment, my husband and I went to the small town where I grew up and heard John Hiatt perform on Friday night. We got there early and parked behind the cultural center that used to be the elementary school I attended from first-sixth grades. My mother and father both went to high school there. The auditorium has been converted into space for shows and concerts.
The first thing I noticed was that the front steps that lead to the auditorium doors seemed very small. I remember that set of stairs seeming huge and almost ominous. We used to play games on them before and after school. We walked downtown for dinner taking the same path I used to take walking home from school, past the building that held the library, police station, courthouse, jail, and fire department. That little public library was one of my favorite places on the planet when I was growing up. One day after school in the first or second grade some friends and I snuck up the open to the street steps to the jail cells to try and catch a glimpse of "some prisoners." By the time I got home someone had called my mother at her office in Raleigh and she had called home to ask what I was doing sneaking up those stairs. That's the kind of little town it was back then. Everyone knew everyone. People watched out for children no matter whose they were. On Friday night I saw one person I knew and she is someone I've met in the past few years, someone who has moved there as an adult but didn't grow up there.
When we got back to the auditorium for the concert I recalled being there many times as a child, for school programs, pageants, performing with my baton-twirling troupe in shows, etc. I have a very distinct memory of what might have been the first time I sat in that auditorium as a first grader, for the Thanksgiving program, and singing Over The River And Through The Woods with the entire school. I remember the light and the stage and the way the floor felt under my little feet, and how big those wooden chairs seemed.
John Hiatt was wonderful, as was the artist who played before him. I thought back to first grade and wondered: what would I have thought if someone told me that 50 years later I would sit in the same place listening to music, the mother of two amazing "children" ages 19 and 21, living on a farm called November Hill with my family and horses, donkeys, cats, and Corgis? It felt like somehow there was a direct link from me listening to John Hiatt to that little girl singing that song about family and foreshadowing November Hill.
Yesterday I painted a huge portion of the cat tunnel and as I painted, using the bristles of the brush to form a point that was able to do the edging without getting a drop on the side of the house, I recalled with equal vividness a time when I lived in Hollywood and my friend Ann and I painted ceramic angels.
Ann taught me how to do verdigris coloring and we painted and talked and laughed. I suspect music was playing in the background, maybe it was June Tabor and the Oyster Band, and there may have been cocktails involved, Pernod and cranberry juice, or wine spritzers. The light around our apartments, mine upstairs, Ann's down, is pure and perfect in my mind's eye. We painted in the courtyard outside our back doors. My cats were up in the kitchen window and Ann's dog beside us on her leash. It seems unbelievable that was more than 25 years ago now.
I'm convinced that as we age time travel becomes more and more possible. We can travel back and forth in the blink of an eye, recalling details that are so perfect and visceral we might as well be there in the flesh. While I sometimes bemoan the fact that time seems to fly, I'm enjoying these little trips to times and places I've been and lived and loved. And in the case of knowing Keil Bay as a 5-year old, dream of.