The second time my family crossed the U.S. it was in an old-model Mercedes, a car held together by rust and kitchen string, altogether at odds with the grandness of the name. We flew from Belgium; it followed us by ship, swung over the sides onto the dock in a cargo net. At least, that's the picture I hold: I could be conflating it with a Spanish ferry on the Costa Brava. The family was together then, the five of us, and we stopped into a coffee shop, just off the plane at JFK. I ordered a hot chocolate. "Honey," said the waitress (they still had waitresses and stewardesses in those years, until they were all exchanged at equal value for servers and flight attendants)..."Honey," she said in a mellifluous New York accent, "we don't have hot chocolate in August."
At this hinge of life, between a 9-to-5 career and the other side, between the frame and the door, if you like, we open the door and walk through. Sometimes — most times — that means saying goodbye to people and places we have loved. The flip side of loss is new experience. Dwell on the one half and you have always lost; live in the other, and there is the excitement of new sheets in a strange bed, a grail and ewer on the night stand, unplowed fields in the window, the latch on the broad-swinging gate. Different animals, new terrain.