I now live in a town with no fewer than 20 Italian restaurants. And yet, stunningly, good pizza seems elusive. It's like in the thrum of competition, any dedication to excellence has gone out the window.
I see how this is possible, living with teenage boys. I've unexpectedly gotten very attached to my own upbringing - something I didn't know I was and yet, now, has become plainly and poignantly obvious in light of this co-parenting adventure. There are things I cling to in a way I didn't when I was younger and kid-less, either because I didn't fully recognize how much they formed me or because I wasn't in an environment that so completely departed and detached from my formative experiences. I am realizing that the more I dig into the heels of my past and attempt to thrust my sepia-tinted stories onto the development of the boys' narrative, the greater my disappointment in the effect and outcome of these efforts. It is hard - really hard - to just let them be who they are, to allow that their trajectory is, in many ways, unattached to mine, that the things that matter to them look a lot different than what's on my particular radar. It is hard, in some ways, to realize that my history is completely unrelated to theirs. I waffle between being relieved about this and feeling like I have to work harder to impress upon them the value of the knowledge I've gained through my own family unit I sprang from. The lack of a biological connection between us makes for a strange geography sometimes as I gather and sort the lessons and meanings of my past. What can I introduce as a useful parable of experience? What is completely irrelevant and unnecessary? A few months ago, I made the startling, tear-inducing realization that the stories I've gathered from my childhood and beyond may end with me. Who is going to carry them forward? How and to whom will these be handed down? There are so many familial memories between my parents and siblings that have been woven into my self-identity, stories with a cast of characters we hold between us so seamlessly. But now what? Who will go visit Waynesboro, Virginia, after I'm gone and walk down South Bath Avenue and remember the backyard pizza party with Bea and Janet? Ah, back to pizza. Maybe in the attempt to fold my past into my present - or hold it up as some kind of guiding light (or, far too frequently, comparison) - I'm diluting the primal value of each reality. I still have what I had. And the boys do, too. And we are, I have to remind myself, making quite a few memories together. Maybe it's not the pizza of my imagination. But perhaps the flavor I have in my head isn't really possible. Who could eat such a rich slice, anyway, with all that cheese covering the crust?