the closer

I can’t remember a time when I wanted to stay in the raisin capital of the world so badly. I was anxious last night before going to bed; the midnight drive across town didn’t even calm me down, which is surprising because the freeways are deserted for that 30 minute drive and the moon is so bright against the foothills.

I was anxious when I woke up – my mom was fairly successful in distracting me with breakfast at a local diner. You know you’ve found a good breakfast spot when the parking lot is full of heavy duty trucks and is wedged between citrus fields. In fact, I almost stayed in the valley – and Lord knows I packed enough to stay for awhile.

Seven days in my childhood home felt like a month – a good month at that. I even had time to visit Raymond and Kevin at the cemetery and spend more than one night with my bests. Both of those were peaceful blessings with messages to carry forward to 2014.

The earth was warm and the sun was bright when I went to sit next to the tree by Ray’s resting place. It had been a few months since I’d been and I was happy to see that his tree was decorated for the holiday. It’s been a devastating year for our friends, and Brendan is buried right below his plot; I couldn’t help but wonder what he thinks about what’s happened here. God I miss those dimples. It seems like it was both yesterday and a million years ago since I held Ben’s hand as we followed his casket with our tired eyes.

At first I felt like the trip home was a misplay; I was tired and disliked the general “how are you?” “what’s new?” line of questions. The last thing I wanted to do was play catch up on the last four months. Its been a whirlwind and its only going to keep spinning for the next few months, so it seemed like a getaway might’ve been a better idea. Thankfully, everyone seemed to get over their pleasantries sooner than later and as soon as their guard dropped it was revealed that none of us wanted to talk, each of us was in transition and none of us had any clue what was ahead for us. It was a gift to be reminded that I wasn’t alone in this journey – it seems that a statistically significant sample of my friends are in the exact same boat. Whew. Indeed, the only thing certain about 2014 is that we’re going to spend a lot of money on weddings. After the amount of wedding work that was done over the past week, I might need a second job to cover the travel alone.

There were many highlights to this trip, not the least of these being the epic Christmas battle of 2013 – slinkies and wrapping paper tubes be damned by my favorite four year old. My nephew makes my heart smile, and my smile grew wider and wider with each and every rip and tear of the carefully wrapped gifts with his name on them. My mom and I cranked out seven dishes in four hours and still managed to pick-up some scratchers for stockings before the night was over – the smells of the glorious Christmas lunch to be was a definite highlight. The high point sticking in my mind at the moment, was my best guy serenading and asking me to dance to his version of “Sweet Annie” by the Zac Brown Band in the waiting area of Old Spaghetti Factory. He’s the same best guy that sang to me on my birthday, and told me that Bruno Mars, “Just the Way You Are” reminded him of me…and texts me every time he hears it. Nearing year 23 of our friendship, he can read me like a book and I’m so thankful for his love.

My annual visit to Monterey on New Years Eve will start up again this year, and the weather forecast predicts beautiful weather for photographs of the coast once again. The blessed unrest continues with no complaints and no victims, just a gnawing realization that there’s something big out there that I haven’t grown to comprehend yet.

There’s no sense in looking back, except for a parting glance at a beautiful sunset. Tootles 13.