He knows that I am a teacher, but he has little sense of what I do as a scholar. We have talked about the book project, but he was unsure what I meant by research. After having a "box seat to the archives" (his words), I am not sure that he finds six or seven hour days in the archives all that enjoyable. But now he knows what I do when I go on these trips. What I did not expect was his embracing of my childhood or our time spent in Charlottesville. I am still not convinced that we should drag our kids down the same childhood streets we roamed, but at least this go-round he appeared interested, asked questions, and made observations (he could not believe how long the bus ride was to our middle school).
We also returned to the place of his own birth. We left Charlottesville when Ethan was three-and-a-half years old. He has some clouded memories, and as he learned, some of those are not correct. What he did not know then, but saw a glimpse of yesterday, was that he was surrounded by people who know him and cared deeply about him and his well-being, even from afar. I cannot express what it means to me to have Ethan know as a young man people who remember him as a free-spirited toddler, who can tell him stories about him and his parents. He has laughed so much and his parents and thei friends.
Our friends have sustained us in ways that we are never fully aware of until they are gone. I am grateful for the friends we have made in Macon, but the return trip to Charlotesville and Crozet felt like conversations that I left off only the day before. In some cases I was picking up those conversations more than a decade after they ended. I realized yesterday that we have been gone too long. Glad to be returning in less than four weeks.