Firsts

In this life, we find ourselves discovering new ideas, new experiences and new people.  Sometimes these discoveries are full on accidents, but sometimes they are planned out carefully.  My last three weeks were a bit of a combination.

The first of April, I retired.  No more working. I had worked since I was 14 years of age and now I was free to sleep as late as I chose, go where I liked, do what I wanted-all on my own schedule. The very idea was surreal-not to mention a bit frightening.  Right away, however, my family stepped in to help that transition.  I was given a vacation-my first in at least a dozen years. My first “real” vacation that I could remember.  The “firsts” had just begun.

My list continued with my boarding a train. I have flown across the country and back again, but I had never been on a train.  And my first?  The City of New Orleans.  A song I have always loved, and now I was on that train.

The next “first” on the list?  Chicago.   I was born and raised in southern Illinois.  I have lived on all three coasts and been to half the states so far, but had never been to Chicago.  To be brutally honest, I didn’t care to go to Chicago.  Too many ugly news reports, too many people…and far too many Cubs fans for my liking, but the train headed north and I ended up in Chicago.  I spent 12 hours in the station there!  It was a long 12 hours, but I admit the people watching was fascinating.  The people I actually met were interesting-and I was exceptionally glad to leave.  After 12 hours, I boarded another train and headed east.

I had never before been to New England. I had always dreamed of visiting there.  I had always imagined being in the midst of our country’s history and I was NOT disappointed.  Along the way, I added new states to my list of those visited. From Illinois, I traveled across Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and, finally, Massachusetts, which was my destination.

The time spent in the northeast was everything I imagined it would be and much, much more.

Places visited early on included a cemetery where the first interment was in 1689-the last in the vicinity of 1850.  The names, dates and inscriptions on those stones was fascinating and inspiring for me, as a writer.  They all held our history in stone.  Some of those people were born, lived and died there before this country existed.  I found that surreal.

I visited many area towns and each one had narrow streets and charming shops wherever you looked.  In the midwest, it isn’t unusual to see empty storefronts and it isn’t unusual for the shops along the main streets to be ‘cookie cutter’-one just like the other, but those shops in those New England towns were charming and inviting and warm.  The history seemed to sit on every doorstep.

Then, after a few days, the travel began.  I added new states-New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Maine.  I visited flea markets, tag sales and souvenir shops.  They all held that same charm. But the truly memorable events were to come.

There was York Harbor, Maine.  I have always dreamed of a cottage by the sea, but there had to be trees around. {I admit, I am a tree hugger from way back.}  When we arrived in York Harbor, I saw just what I had held in my dreams for so long.  The sea called out it’s greeting. The atmosphere was perfection.  I sat on a boulder at the water’s edge and I shed a few tears.  When you find what you consider true happiness, it sometimes leaks from your eyes.

I visited Hampton Beach.  It was lovely and it was chilly.  I wasn’t quite prepared for a 40 degree drop from southern Illinois, but there it was.  It was perfect.

I also visited Cape Cod. Provincetown, Massachusetts is at the very tip and there was the lighthouse and there was the ocean.  York Harbor and Hampton Beach were beautiful and they touched my heart, but Cape Cod was something so different.  I rolled up my pant legs, kicked off my sandals and stepped into the surf.  It took my breath at first because the water was cold, but I stood there and looked out to sea. It was endless and perfect and breathtaking.  I collected stones and shells to commemorate my stay, and then I sat to watch this grand production of nature.  As I sat there, I saw something dark poke up from the surf several times, but I couldn’t tell what it was until finally, it was close to shore.  There it was-a Harbor seal.  I hadn’t expected to see such a thing and it was thrilling.

I didn’t want to leave the shore, but there was more to see and more to do {and I felt the sunburn}.

So many firsts.  In a life of a few decades, you believe you have done so much and seen so many things, but there is always more.  So many experiences yet to be faced. I thought I had certainly hit a pinnacle, but one thing was to take my breath and my heart and convince me that we all have a dream that we believe will never be achieved.  We all have that one thing that we can never imagine grasping in our hand.   But we can.

I was given a gift I would never have expected, nor would I have thought it a possibility.

My family and I were driving and I was told to close my eyes-for more than 2 miles. I hadn’t been allowed to look up at road signs so I had no idea where we were.  Finally, I was told I could open my eyes.  We had arrived at Cooperstown.  The Baseball Hall of Fame.  I broke down and sobbed like a child.  In that moment, I WAS a child. I had been given something that meant the world to me.

It would take another complete blog entry to explain what baseball means to me-what it has meant to me in my life. Just let me say that in a life where I suffered heartache, deep loss, betrayals and abuse, the one thing that was ALWAYS there for me was baseball.  That game-my team- were always there. When I could not depend upon anyone or anything, that game was always there.

Now, here I am at the age of 64, and my dream from as far back as I can remember was reached.

So many firsts— riding the train, going to Chicago, visiting all those states, visiting all those places I had heard of most of my life {including Salem, Massachusetts, by the way}, were reached and deeply appreciated.

I believe that is the key in life.  Strive to reach new goals-large or small. Acknowledge them and appreciate them for the wondrous events they are.   Never believe that there is nothing more to do.  Every day should hold some sort of “first”. Surprise yourself.

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