Something about my mother’s passing has left a yearning in me to time-travel.
Not really. Not literally. Not even to “go back” to see her, though I miss her everyday.
It’s something more ephemeral. More sensory. A kind of wish; a wish I could will into being. It’s wanting the ability to conjure up the feeling you get when a song transports you; that feeling you get when, upon hearing a song, you are instantly transported to a moment in time, to where you associate it with, to when you remember hearing it on your transistor AM radio from Radio Shack, in a time and place when people you know, or knew, were of a certain age, and to experience again how things smelled, how the sun felt on your skin, looked as it passed through the trees and glistened on the grass beneath your bare feet.
It’s not even about some romanticized version of anyone, my mother or my childhood. It’s not a yearning to return to “simpler times,” or “carefree days,” or a sanitized, sainted hologram of my dead mother and the 1970’s.
But it is analog. And it is about that decade. Not the ’80’s, when I was in college and flailing about. Not the ’90’s when I’d found some equilibrium, launched my career, and (thank God!) met my husband. It’s certainly not about the ’00’s, when our children were little, the towers fell, and the world changed forever.
No. It’s this recurring mental image I have of something I remember actually, literally thinking when I was a teenager, in the 1970’s.
You could disappear.
You could wander America absolutely untracked, unknown, and therefore, with absolutely unlimited possibilities. Unlimited in that you could travel unencumbered by any “baggage.” If you’d completely f*cked-up your life, you could move to a distant town or state, and start-the-hell-over. And I fully understand this kind of liberty can be used nefariously; to avoid child-support payments or back-taxes or a life of crime. I get that. But that necessarily means a very few people because a very few people do those things (in the grand scheme of things.) No. I’m talking about the non-nefarious 90+% of us who used to have the ability to wander undetected by satellites, Google-maps, or the Federal f*cking Government, perhaps to the upper altitudes of interior Maine, spying the distant blue of the Atlantic from a sap-soaked mountain clearing… because… we could! Just because we could. That’s the picture, the locale, the postcard I have in my head and it keeps calling to me! I don’t know why! (Remember postcards? What we used to send instead of a text with an iPhone snap? Seems quaint, huh? How very analog we were…)
Now, let me pause for a moment to reassure my gentle reader that I don’t have any plans to go all Unabomber and live in a shack writing manifestos on the evils of modern life. I love modern life. I’m typing this, my 600-somethingth blog-post right here, right now, on this very machine, because I believe in the positive power and reach of this magnificent platform we now have. And as someone with crippling social issues, it’s my lifeline. I honestly think the internet has saved lives; lives like mine (I have Asperger’s if you’re new here.)
But I digress. This wish, this longing for analog America is much, much bigger than me and my goofy brain and life. It’s something else, again. It’s about my kids, and losing Liberty; capital “L” Liberty.
I literally – literally – remember thinking, when I was a teenager, that in America you really could disappear. I don’t remember what sparked the thought but my sense is it had something to do with my late brother Daniel (7 years older than me) having another battle with my Dad. Something tells me he threatened to do it. Just blow that clambake at Hatherly Road. The way I remember my two brothers during that time, my brother Mike (8 years older than me) was (what we later came to know as the 1980’s television character) Alex Keaton, the smart, resourceful capitalist, and my brother Dan, the free-spirited hippie wanting to spend his days seeing America, man, in his souped-up Chevy Van, man. This was a cause of much discordance at the ol’ homestead.
I remember thinking my brother Dan could disappear… And right after that I remember thinking how big America is, and that made this thought bigger, vastly bigger, at least as big as sea to shining sea…
…which, as was my next thought, meant I could disappear. And I remember feeling unsafe at the thought. That there could be all kinds of people wandering the quiet countryside who were not who they said they were. And then I remember thinking that our whole system, our whole country then, relies on the fact that people will act honorably! Which, of course, it does! The Founders spoke and wrote often that this experiment in human liberty would fail if not for a “Godly” population. Until a few decades ago, there was very little the federal government could do to “track” the “un-Godly.” Now of course, there’s ankle-bracelets and GPS and all kinds of technology I’ve previously mentioned, and now these technologies track all of us, “Godly” or not.
We are all now digitally shackled.
So now, I look at my girls, not much older than I was when I had this realization about the depth, breadth, and magnitude of my capital “L” Liberty, and I feel sorry for them.
And that’s where the yearning for the time-travel comes in.
I wish I could capture for them that feeling! That feeling that you could wander…