When I was 14–during the summer after 8th grade–I got into some trouble.
I had been sneaking out of the house at night to hang out with two neighborhood boys–occasionally smoking cigarettes or walking around town, though usually just watching TV in one of the boys’ backyards. I’d been bragging about these expeditions–at a place and time I definitely should not have been– and I got busted.
I was grounded for the remaining two months of break. I had to spend my days at my step mother’s sister’s (my step-aunt’s) place because I wasn’t allowed to be home alone. I couldn’t see my friends. I didn’t have the internet at home and I wasn’t allowed to use the phone.
Ever the optimist, I tried to look on the bright side. I had two months away from everyone (which, as a young teenager felt like an eternity). I had two months in which to transform myself into someone more beautiful and more interesting. I could start high school with a new look, a new outlook. I would be both mysterious and refreshed.
I’m not sure how I planned to achieve these transformative outcomes. I spent most of that time listening to Everclear and Natalie Imbruglia albums on my diskman and sitting in my step-aunt’s backyard reading Steven King.
But I did indeed refresh. I spent less time talking–the action that, in a way, had gotten me into trouble–and more time, not exactly listening, but more or less absorbing my surroundings, exploring my thoughts, oscillating between acceptance and escape.
Within the following six months, my life would change drastically. I would move out of my father and step-mother’s house and into a trailer with my mother and grandmother (a transition both dramatic and brave). My life would grow louder, more crowded, and more chaotic, yet immeasurably more comfortable. I would not listen to headphones or read novels or sit quietly in the sun. I would be happier, more free, both literally and figuratively less grounded.
In some ways, Grant Village is like my step-aunt’s back yard that summer. In this place–the interior of Yellowstone National Park–I relish the privacy of transformation and the mystery of being absent from my old life.
(Of course there are temporal-emotional differences: I’ve chosen this space of semi-solitude; instead of two months, it has been two years; I connect to you through crafted messages, sent by way of a satellite up in the stars. It would be wrong to cast this experience as any kind of punishment, when it’s really a welcomed retreat. None-the-less, parallels arise.)
I spend this time watching my daughter grow to a soundtrack of house music, led zeppelin, and various children’s songs. I read memoir after memoir after memoir. I build fires, drink coffee, and gaze out at the world.
As the snow continues to accumulate and April turns to to May, I can’t help but think about life in the city, about the glory of return. I daydream about when I will be ready to emerge with a new look, and a new outlook, at once mysterious and refreshed.
I think about how much louder my life will be, how exciting, and how busy. When I’ll be able to do things the things I miss–like work in a theatre–and things that I have dreamed about–like putting Lydia in ballet. When I will undoubtedly look back–lovingly, longingly–in the direction of this simpler life. I’ll be more free, and less grounded, but very much the same girl.
Until then, I’ll try not to get into trouble. Until then, I’ll savor the calm.