a reflection on moments gone by
I am only slightly embarrassed to admit that I recently cried while walking onto an airplane listening to some mainstream folk. It wasn’t a full out sob by any means, but a couple sizable tears truly rolled down my cheek during my walk from the gate to seat 29A. I wasn’t mourning any great loss or suffering any great tragedy. I was simply boarding a plane in San Francisco bound for the East Coast, heading back to Brown after spending a long weekend with my stepsister.
It was a perfect weekend—we ate ice cream every day, we went for hikes, we saw the Head and the Heart (aforementioned mainstream folk) on a grassy hill in that perfect Northern California temperature. It was a picturesque 72 hours. But there I was, ending my glorious sunshine, beer-filled weekend walking onto a plane crying.
It was that Sunday sadness we all know. You’re nine years old, and your dad is cooking dinner while the sky turns from blue to pink to black. The past two days of cartoons and playing games are over. The week has come to an end, and the next one is barreling right at you. Soon that will be gone too.
Sunday evenings are a moment to be still, to think about what’s coming next and what you have left behind. Sometimes weeks gone by included impossible tests and heartbreaking moments that we are thrilled to be rid of. Other times, they are weeks of belly laughs and perfect sunny days. Whenever I think of the happy moments behind me during a Sunday afternoon filled with homework and banality, just like this one spent flying away from a serene San Franciscan weekend, I can never help but wish I was back in the sun, back in a moment when I felt full and weightless all at once. I want to be back in a moment I know I can never have back.
When I reached my seat, I tried to make the tears stop. I looked outside the plane window at the men in neon orange throwing bags and waving their arms to usher through the trolleys of people’s suitcases full of favorite sweaters and cheap souvenirs they had bought to try and hold on to a moment in time. And I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t stop mourning the passing of my life.
I had spent the weekend with West Coast sunshine warming me from the inside out. I had spent the weekend having silly, important, instructive conversations with a person who loves me so much that she grabbed me and told me so in the middle of a decent mainstream folk song. But the weekend was over, and I was on a plane. I could write it all down and remember it piece by piece, but that feeling of fullness and stillness and life lasting forever was over.
I can go back to San Francisco to visit my stepsister another weekend, but it won’t be the same. I won’t be 20, and she won’t be starting grad school, unsure of what is next, content to be frozen in time. I can go back to the place that gave me the summer of a lifetime, but everything will be different. There won’t be exactly the same people in exactly the same places in their lives, needing exactly the kind of love that I gave them.
I will be someone slightly different too. I will need a slightly different kind of love. I can go back to the exact spot where a boy I adored touched my hair and told me he wanted to know what goes through my head when I get quiet, but he won’t be there. I can go home and watch my dad cook dinner in the kitchen I grew up in as the sky turns from blue to pink to black, but it won’t be the same. The color on the wall will be slightly darker and the silverware will be in a different drawer, and I will know my dad is not a superhero but a person. I can sit there and be still with him and feel full and safe in the kitchen I grew up in, but the kitchen and I will have changed. I am not nine anymore.
These moments are gone. I can think of them, long for them, feel lucky that I had them, but I can’t bring them back. Instead, I can only wait for the next moment or weekend or afternoon when I will feel like I’m made of beer and ice cream and all the people who have ever loved me. It will come again soon, I told myself as we began our departure from San Francisco.
Sunday is always a departure. In theory, it is the first day of a new week, but somehow it always feels more like a departure from the previous week, an endnote. Especially when you’re leaving behind a weekend of utter bliss, or leaving behind a place that served you so well, or a boy who made you feel so warm. Especially when you’re nine.
By the time we reached cruising altitude, my eyes were finally dry. I started the song over from the beginning.