It is an old athletic cliché about aging that we sacrifice agility for wisdom, though I’d count impulsiveness as the more significant casualty, and one that is every bit as difficult to recover as lateral quickness. What we gain from sheer circumspection is well documented – in athletics when the first shot we see is not always the best one, and in everything else where disasters are no sooner imagined than averted – yet all of the tallying downsides can make even the tamest of adventures seem hardly worth the rewards of serendipity. A drive in the country? With three children in the backseat bickering over who gets to use the iPad? Gas prices being what they are? Plus, isn’t it cocktail hour already?
Maybe you are different, para-sailing and bungee-jumping and such, still here toward the end of a season that has probably afforded at least one or two opportunities for experimentation, and the beginning of another that is nominally about getting back to the business of being ourselves, I think we could do worse than to remember the example of Cynthia Rylant’s and Stephen Gammell’s improvisatory The Relatives Came, in which a family of riotous hillbillies loads up the station wagon with soda pop and bologna sandwiches and rattles off into the darkness at four in the morning to visit their cousins in a neighboring state. A mailbox gets splintered before they’ve even exited the driveway, luggage goes headlong, and who knows what’s going to become of the “nearly purple” grapes they leave behind on their Virginia farm, but the real story here is finally the family on the other end of this impetuous journey, who hardly even flinch when those relatives come crashing into their fence. And hug them so wildly their feet leave the ground, and eat with such abandon the food goes slopping off their plates, and squeeze into beds wherever they can find them, all arms and draping legs and noisy breathing.
I will confess to worrying in these early pages over just how long they were planning to stay, and what sort of blunt force trauma should be required to achieve a resolution, but these tumultuous visitors even end up fixing that shattered picket fence before long, and tend the garden, and play fiddles and banjos, and probably pick a couple of fights when we’re not looking – anything in the service of a memory. Why go on vacation when the vacation can come to you? And what is it we are really trying to lasso with a camera except the sort of moments that should conceivably never happen again? You may go charging across the horizon in search of such memories, and spending money you don’t have, though perhaps there is nothing both so wise and impulsive as scarcely stepping out of the way.