Apart and Together
I tend to think about distances when Thanksgiving rolls around. Many of my own memories of this holiday involve long stretches of Wednesday afternoon traffic on the Massachusetts Turnpike, with hundreds of brake lights glittering on the horizon for as far as the eye could see. But in my view, what Thanksgiving teaches us about distance is this — when distance functions as a metaphor for emotional connections, it’s often a false one. When we come together to share Thanksgiving with the people we love, we realize that in the things that matter the most, the distance between us is mere. Our genuine connections cannot be damaged by the geographical space that ostensibly separates us, not really.
Still, it’s hard to be apart from the people we love, the people we want to be with. Maybe you are like me, and you fantasize about a parallel universe in which those distances and separations don’t exist. I can meet Becky for lunch (even though she’s in Florida), go shopping with Jen (even though she’s in California), watch the playoffs with Mark (even though he’s in Virginia). It’s a lovely place, the parallel universe where my imagination unfurls, and I indulge in fantasies about things that can’t actually happen — a nonexistent world in which I’ll be rolling pie crust in my mom’s kitchen this week, playing catch with my toddler nephews, teasing my father, baking Swiss Pumpkin with Mickie. And maybe I spend too much time in that imaginary world, but really: why not? What’s the harm?
In the meantime, we can skype, we can text, we can call – and we can still write to each other too, you know. Some of the most exquisite and beautiful intimacies in history have taken shape as epistolary relationships. In writing to each other, we can say things that are far more difficult to articulate in person; but being more difficult doesn’t make them less true. Just as living at a distance doesn’t mean that you have to be apart, not really, not in the things that matter.