It’s a bizzare experience to be able to add so many layers of memories on top of a place so far from where you live. I’ve returned to Portland. I don’t know how many times I’ve been here before but I can feel three distinct layers of memories: the deep gray, the warmth of connection, the draw of nature. Somehow my memories of this place mold themselves into these boxes like the cats I take care of and cuddle with while I’m here.
One night in high school, my curiosity got away from me and I ended up grilling a classmate of mine at a church dinner. Our social circles can’t be compared — it might be better to call hers a social circle and mine a social square to more aptly explain the difference in who we spent time with. She was quintessentially cool from what she wore to what she drove to school. Meanwhile, I fell asleep on my Latin textbook and couldn’t figure when to stop wearing white (I will never understand this) so I just avoided it altogether. Somehow the two of us ended up talking at this dinner of mismatched folks and, likely as a way to escape my mental space, I dug into her life. She latched on. I love moments when superficialities don’t stand a chance when put against what really matters.
Our friendship was a mutual reprieve. Neither of us wanted to spend much time at home and, like babies who can’t sleep, a long drive in a car did something for our souls. I had a few friends who I did the long drive trick with — the trip would start off quietly and end with secrets slipping out in the midst of saying goodbye. In some of those sacred moments when you just need someone there, we both showed up for one another. She now lives in Portland and that second box of memories here — the warmth of connection — has sprung alive.
I routinely underestimate how much of an impact having someone I love near me makes. Every time I’m retaught this emotional 2 + 2 = 4 lesson, I try to pause to remind myself to remember it this time. Somehow, it never sticks. The positive side of this forgetting is that I meet this recurring lesson with child-like wonder. I carefully place the memories I’m making on this trip into the box it belongs in and smile, “this fits perfectly”.
It’s a wonderful privilege to love so many people in so many places and to create these little homes wherever our lives collide. I would choose a collection of these little homes any day over a more normal existence.