One of the many things we love about our Airstream is that it becomes whatever we need it to be, depending on the location. Last weekend, it was our beach cottage. This weekend, it was our lake house. It has also served as our mountain cabin, our urban oasis, our country home. Throughout the pandemic, it has served as our weekend escape, our place of refuge, our sanctuary. You get the idea.
As we settled into the weekend at Joe Pool Lake, we felt nostalgic for the many Christmas seasons we’ve spent on the road. We accompanied our Date Night dinner with a viewing of “White Christmas,” one of our favorite holiday films. The 1954 classic, starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen, was the first film to be released in VistaVision, a widescreen process that holds up remarkably well on today’s high-definition screens.
Next day, Cliff returned to Hampshire for his work shift while Jon kept company with the doggies as he read The New York Times. Later in the day, we met some fellow Airstreamers camped nearby and agreed to share our stories around the campfire later in the evening. Natalia and Barbara are new to the Airstream life, so we happily shared with them our experiences from seven years on the road.
Sunday found us enjoying our regular routines throughout the day and into the evening. Chef Cliff prepared a special Sunday supper of grilled lamb shoulder, braised potatoes, and Italian pole green beans. We ended the evening by watching a perennial favorite, “Rick Steves’ European Christmas.” Unfortunately, we got into an argument, fueled more by wine and fatigue than actual disagreement. It reminded us both of previous flare-ups we’ve had and how these events have the ability to completely derail an otherwise enjoyable evening.
At one point, Cliff said, “this is all so unimportant, especially considering everything that’s going on.”
He was referring to the pandemic, and how our minor dust-ups pale in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens who have had to see their loved ones die without the ability to comfort them in their final moments of life.
We were mindful of an old blog post we had shared with Natalia and Barbara the night before. In it, we quoted the author Salman Rushdie, who wrote in Imaginary Homelands:
Human beings do not perceive things whole; we are not gods but wounded creatures, cracked lenses, capable only of fractured perceptions. Partial beings, in all senses of that phrase. Meaning is a shaky edifice we build out of scraps, dogmas, childhood injuries, newspaper articles, chance remarks, old films, small victories, people hated, people loved; perhaps it is because our sense of what is the case is constructed from such inadequate materials that we defend it so fiercely, even to the death.
Cliff was right to position our argument against the perspective of the pandemic. Even after nearly two decades, the life we’ve built together remains a shaky edifice, for it has been constructed from inadequate materials. But we’re grateful that we still have the ability to let down our defenses long enough to recognize how fractured we are and how much we need healing and wholeness.
This morning, Cliff’s 55th birthday, we awoke feeling kinder, gentler, quieter. A big part of piecing together meaning involves patching things up.
We’ll undoubtedly have more arguments ahead. But this morning, as we sat surrounded by our doggies amid Christmas music and birthday greetings, we remembered who we are, and who we want to be.