It’s 6:30 am on a summer Sunday morning. My iPod delivers the first “whoa whoa whoa”s of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” into my waiting eardrums as I set out to walk the length and back of Ogunquit Maine’s Marginal Way. Leaving Kelly sleeping off last night’s “Tini” part of our dinner at “Tapas and Tinis,” I walk and walk feeling the warm early morning sun on my cheeks as I share the walkway with serious joggers, early morning fisherman, and the occasional retiree with coffee and paper. The tide is just beginning to return to the shore. I grew up on an island, I know the rhythm of tides as well as I know the overture to “Gypsy,” I should find it comforting, familiar… but I don’t. I feel restless, unsettled, and as if I’m looking for something. I continue through Perkins Cove and over the drawbridge as far as I can before I run out of walkway. Reluctantly I decide against tramping through stranger’s front yards and turn back towards the village where I buy a coffee and a paper and sit outside with a family with early-waking toddlers and a group of elderly men partaking in what is clearly a weekly if not daily ritual of coffee and company.
I try to focus on my Maine Sunday Telegram but instead my thoughts wander and I find myself thinking, not for the first time, what it would be like to live in this village, to be a part of a town part artist colony, part tourist destination, part gay and lesbian hotspot. To be part of the community, work on committees for town celebrations, know my neighbors, and complain about the logjam of tourists every summer. For the past few months Kelly and I have been talking seriously about selling the condo once Liza goes off to college and moving this “beautiful place by the sea.” Make no mistake about it, this is not some ill-thought-out plan that presupposes every day will feel like vacation (like when Kelly moved to New Orleans because Mardi Gras was so much fun. . .not the most brilliant of ideas). For me it would be returning to my home state and most of all returning to a place in the world where the tides help define the rhythm of life and the smell of salt is thick in the summer air and you feel part of a town that knows you.
Before heading back to New Hampshire we spend the day driving neighborhood after neighborhood in Ogunquit and into neighboring York ,looking at houses and speculating about cost and where the nearest grocery store would be and how we’d make a living. We know our real estate and know that even the tiniest ramshackle cottage costs four times what I paid for my condo. Kelly and I are well matched on excursions like this. She goes right to “Would you want the gray clapboard shingles? I like the natural tan ones better,” and persists in driving down long windy drives to million dollar homes that would never in my wildest dreams be ours. I’m the realist. The one who tempers her enthusiasm with “if we even manage to be able to afford to move to Ogunquit you need to know there’s no way on this earth we can live on the ocean.” Usually her enthusiasm is contagious and I find myself thinking about waking each morning to the sound of surf as I did throughout my childhood, to coffee on my deck, to finally having a home that can indulge my love for company, where Liza could return on school breaks with friends. I imagine her rolling her eyes and saying “come visit me in Ogunquit. We’ll go to the beach to get away from my moms, they’re driving me crazy. “ But today I can’t shake the restless frustration that dogged me during my morning walk. It’s more than a longing for something that I know is well, well beyond my means. I grew up among the rich and super rich, and spend my working days asking them for charitable gifts. I’ve long since moved past being envious of a monied lifestyle. It’s not envy of the wealthy whose houses open onto ocean vistas that fills me now. My vision of our life in Ogunquit has never been one of material things or a fancy home. What churns inside me now is a battle between the voice cautioning me not to dream this too hard, I’ll only be let down and the one telling me if I don’t dream it, if I don’t cling to it I will surely be let down. This life I’m about to embark on with Kelly by my side calls for something more, something that will make all the parts whole. A true extreme life makeover. I don’t want to raise money for the rest of my life, I don’t want to foot the bill for someone else’s creativity anymore. I’m selfish. I want my own life of writing and performing and waking each morning excited about what the day will bring rather than resigned to another day of lists and grants and spreadsheets and ticket sales. It is this restlessness I felt on my morning walk, the niggling feeling of knowing where I want to be but unsure how to get there. Allowing myself to be content in the moment of the morning is suspect…I know it’s fleeting and soon I have to return home to my ‘real life.’ I’m grumpy with Kelly, sullen and uncommunicative on the ride home, resenting the inevitable march toward Monday morning.
Kelly, as usual, is patient with me, giving me some space and teasing me out of my funk with her humor and a particularly well-made Caesar salad for dinner. Later that night as we sit together for the premiere of Mad Men comfortably sharing space on the sectional, I realize that seven years ago I fought similar voices inside of me. The ones telling me to stuff a longing for a different life down deep inside me where no one would find it, to ignore it, to fight it and it would go away along with voice that told me that not fighting for this new life meant slowly dying inside. I realize I have already done what I once thought was impossible. Started over, found and been found by love and forged a new path for myself, a journey that in two months time will culminate with marrying the woman who saved me, who loves me, who laughs with and at me, and who showed me that daring to dream a new life isn’t selfish, it’s necessary. I turn to her and joke that if we wait 11 years to move to Ogunquit I’ll be eligible to live in a 55+ planned community. She smiles and says “we won’t wait that long I promise.” And I believe her. And in that moment I let the dream come in and open the door to a life by the sea that I know is out there for us. Even if now it exists only in the margins of my mind.
That I knew how to tap dance
That I understood the appeal of hiking
That I was a better writer
That the Carol Burnett Show was still on the air
That Liza still held my hand when we walk on the beach
That I liked yogurt
That I could take a walk with my father one more time
That the day after the Oscars was a nationally sanctioned day of rest
That there was a sports team, any sports team, I was remotely interested in.
That I was more effective at my job
That I trusted my ability to sing
That I didn’t hyperventilate when it was time for costume measurements
That I trusted my friends not to care about my costume measurements.
That money didn’t worry me so
That I could pick up Liza every day at 2:10 like other moms
That I liked to cook
That I was better at confronting people who have hurt me
That peak foliage would last two months and winter only one
That I had found the courage to come out to my mother
That I had something more creative to write about
That I didn’t worry what the other moms at Liza’s school think of me.
That I was kinder in word and deed
That I knew what the cat found so fascinating under the living room chair
That I took the time to go explore the woods behind my house
That I was more serious of purpose
That I had Kelly’s wit
That I didn’t fall so in love with the character I’m playing. The goodbye will hurt.
That I had realized how loud that cool new clock in the living room would be.
That I could call my sister and tell her I was sorry for being such a bratty kid.
That I had a sense of style
That I could spend a long morning over coffee with my college roomie.
That I wasn’t so chicken
That my oldest nephew would realize how much his family loves him
That I could motivate myself to exercise.
That I hadn’t hurt my ex husband so deeply
That I didn’t love reality tv so much
That my brother lived closer
That I cared about statistics and surveys and studies
That I had been a better mom to Liza in her early years.
That I had the guts to tell my friend to get the help she needs before she dies.
That typing that sentence didn’t make me cry.
That I could live with the mistakes of my past.
That Dani was here to tell me we all have pasts and we all live with them.
That Kelly could really know how madly passionately desperately I love her.
That I didn’t have to stop writing this and go to work.
That we could have a national discourse without screaming at each other.
That the fact that I want to marry Kelly would be a non issue to everyone.
That I wasn’t such a sap and didn’t cry every time Liza goes on stage
That for today I can make at least one person laugh out loud.
That I will find one friend I haven’t seen in a long time and tell them I love them.
What are your wishes?