Monday, November 20, 2006

Stop this Train

I've been feeling very mushy and sentimental and introspective today. Maybe it's the holidays. I love the holidays. I love fall and winter and dressing in layers and new coats and red cheeks and heated car seats and snuggling on the couch with a fleece blankie and the smell of fireplaces on the night air and the clear, starry nights you only get in winter and seeing my breath on the air and hot drinks and comfort food and CHRISTMAS MUSIC and CHRISTMAS MOVIES . . . and presents for pretty girls . . . and all that the season brings. Yeah. My family and friends mock me mercilessly about the CHRISTMAS MUSIC and MOVIES. Can I just say, without shame or apology, that last night we watched A Charlie Brown Christmas AND Muppet Christmas Carol. And I'm breaking out the Christmas stuff this weekend. So there. Thpbbbbbtttttt.

And I love getting together with my family - stepbrothers and cousin-who's-like-a-sister and their kids and grandkids. This rather large group (20+ adults and 4 or 5 little ones) gathered at my house yesterday for our yearly Thanksgiving dinner. We all live in the metroplex, but due to the natural order of life that makes people too busy with their daily lives/work/friends/immediate family to have time to do much else, we only gather twice a year - Thanksgiving and Christmas - unless there is a funeral or a wedding.

I love my family. They are a fun, intelligent, witty group of people who enjoy life to the fullest and have managed to get through many, many years with very little drama at all. That's quite an accomplishment in this day of the proud banner of dysfunction that so many families live under. And every single time we gather, I find myself hungry for more time. More time to spend talking to each individual that I love so much, to find out what's been happening in their life in the past year, how they are feeling, what they are planning for the future. Just reacquainting. And there is never enough. Never enough time, not for me. The women tend to gather in one room, talking and tending the kids, and the guys in another, watching football, as in most families. And I never seem to get around to talking to everyone - when it's at my home, it's even worse since I'm also playing hostess and overseeing the kitchen doings.

Yesterday as we were talking, I was remembering and reminding the others of the great times years ago, when our now grown-with-children-of-their-own kids were the little ones in the family, and we were a smaller group, and we used to gather at my dad and stepmom's home and stay for hours, drinking Margaritas (made fresh in the blender by my dad), eating pie, playing spades, just laughing and hanging out. During those years, we all lived closer to each other, and actually did things together sometimes through out the year, including family birthday parties, etc.

I miss those days so much. I miss the leisurely family gatherings where no one had to get to another family thing, or back home to check their email and plan a business trip, or just to hit the road because they live an hour away. I know time marches on and life changes, and we are all very blessed now to have good jobs and great kids and grandkids and are all in a very good place in life (though several of us have lost parents already). But it just seems the older I get, I cherish those close family ties all the more, I guess knowing they won't be there forever.

So, as I watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on TV while writing this (not one of the best, by the way - can't hold a candle to A Charlie Brown Christmas, which still makes me misty when Linus recites the lines from the King James version of Mark's Christmas Story, or It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, my second favorite) - well, I just want to say that I love and cherish my family and I wish we had more time together. I wish life wasn't so busy. I wish they weren't so busy. I wish I wasn't so busy. But we make our choices and we live with the results, and that's just how life goes.

There's a song on John Mayer's new album, Continuum, that perfectly expresses how I've been feeling lately. In fact, the first time I heard it, I was startled by the raw emotion it brought up in me, speaking things I didn't even realize I felt, and choking back tears (and I rarely cry) with the poignancy and truth of the words:

STOP THIS TRAIN (by John Mayer)

No I'm not colorblind
I know this world is black and white
I try to keep an open mind
But I just can't sleep on this tonight

Stop this train
I want to get off
And go home again
I can't take the speed it's moving in
I know I can't
But honestly, won't someone stop this train?

Don't know how else to say it
I don't want to see my parents go
One generation's length away
From fighting life out on my own

Stop this train
I want to get off
And go home again
I can't take the speed it's moving in
I know I can't
But honestly, won't someone stop this train?

So scared of getting older
I'm only good at being young
So I play the numbers game
To find a way to say that life has just begun

Had a talk with my old man
Said "help me understand"
He said "turn sixty-eight"
"You'll renegotiate"
"Don't stop this train
Don't for a minute change the place you're in
And don't think I couldn't ever understand
I tried my hand
John, honestly we'll never stop this train"

Once in a while, when it's good
It'll feel like it should
And they're all still around
And you're still safe and sound
And you don't miss a thing
Till you cry when you're driving away in the dark
Stop this train
I want to get off
And go home again
I can't take the speed it's moving in
I know I can't
Cause now I see I'll never stop this train

(here's a link to listen - Listen to Stop This Train by John Mayer on Rhapsody:

Yeah. I miss my dad. I miss my mom. I don't really want to go back, because there is so much that is good and lovely and amazing about life today. But sometimes . . . just sometimes . . . I'd love to have a time machine to relive some of those good times. When you get to be my age, there's a lot to look back on. Many regrets, to be sure, but also many times that were good enough for reruns.

I only want to get off sometimes . . . mostly I just wish it would slow down and even take a rest stop once in a while.