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  • What is this, a day for memories?

    Seemingly so, although it's the first relatively cool day in St. Louis for a long time. I should really be outside, not typing this.

    But I'm not.

    So, a day for memories.

    Ever since the tree fell on our house earlier this year and the roof has been rebuilt, the home has seemed to belong more to the construction workers than ourselves. All the photographs are off the walls, fresh paint is drying and the house looks more spiffy than it's been in years.

    Perhaps that's the spur. Ruth has been going through drawers that have been unopened for a long time, sorting out stuff and throwing a lot away. This photograph is one of those finds.

    It's a picture from our three day narrow boat excursion on the River Wey in Surrey in the summer of 2001. It's one of those cheap prints where the default developing settings boost the color on the assumption that is what most people want. Maybe most people do.

    The effect, though, is to portray the adventure as bright and sunny when really it was a much nuanced trip. Five of us were on the long barge, my parents, Ruth and young David. A chance for some closeness.

    Closeness I got, but not the kind I was looking for. My parent's marriage was entering the final phase of denial and indifference and that cast a gray emotional pall over the experience. I found myself winding up tighter and tighter. No relaxation here, except perhaps in the evening when the whisky and beer flowed. Before long, it seemed like the three of us and my parents had split into two units. We did the things we had to do - nursing the tiller and operating the lock gates - and did them with some pleasure. A pleasure that came solely through the doing, though.

    Not enough.

    By the third and final day, we were moored outside Sainsbury's in Godalming. The rain was pouring down, one of the mooring ropes was snagged around the propeller, and I was snapping at my mother as she tried to oversee the meal I was cooking. I felt all those confused and irritable feelings that an adult has when a childhood dynamic, and not a happy one, seems to reassert itself.

    I'd left the country to avoid these feelings, I'd hoped they were gone forever.

    The next morning the rain had passed, someone from the boat rental place had cleared the rope, and we were bringing it into its final mooring, at least for us. I was feeling fragile and somewhat out of it. Shock, maybe.

    The "Constance", that was the boat. Constancy, of a sort, had been the hallmark of my parent's marriage. Even when I was child I could sense it was over, yet here it was going on and on.

    Three years later, they split. Since then, both have been happier than I ever knew before. Since then, I have truly felt like an adult in their presence.
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