I'm going up to Montana in a few days, so this writing will be out of date by the time it is published. I can't tell you what I'm going to see or do; only what I anticipate and that isn't good.
I haven't been there for many years. I tried to withdraw from this trip. Every time we approached the airline websites, I shrank away from the task. We finally clicked 'yes' on 'buy tickets' back in July—if you wait too long, the airfares go through the roof. All three of my sons are going along, plus my daughter-in-law—excited about seeing what her young husband has described to her and meeting the people he talks about, even though he himself barely knows them. My oldest skewers me with a look when I express my dismay over the distance and the reawakening of old griefs. 'You'll have us around you', he says, 'We'll be there, too.'
Montana is the home of my late husband's family and by extrapolation, the center of my children's mythology surrounding their father: he was a cold country guy. He skied, shoveled snow and drove on icy streets with 4-wheel drive. His ashes are also buried up there in an aspen grove, set aside for the family in perpetuity on land formerly owned by his father, on the occasion of his first-born son's death. This legal maneuver came sooner than expected, but the grove is populated now: another son followed the first and now his mother is there, too. She was going to be among us this Christmas, but that's not to be.
I don't look forward to seeing that grove again.
I am in the here-and-now. Trying out voice-overs in the car—'I'm Terry Gross and this is Frrrreshair!' —or 'All Things Considered'—before the theme songs start, I'm already in the right key; just add my own riffs. Work schedules and new employee orientations—surprises benign for the most part, although not too placid. My job isn't boring.
My latest theater gig is coming along; a bit bumpy: we lost a cast member to illness, but replaced her immediately. The working script turns out not to be the published version, so I've had to undo some triggering for a couple of scenes and relearn some stuff. We all agreed that our first impressions hold true. We like our characters in the original—the author's newer version is caustic and brutal, and we're content to ignore that and go back to her women as kindheartedly drawn. We'll just pull some funny stuff out of that slicker edition and slap it in on our old one. No one will be the wiser. We're forming a bizarre community of underage actresses for these roles. Our director, undergoing a bout of insomnia these past six months, has pushed through some personal barrier and come out somewhat tweaked, by his own admission. Deprived of sleep, he roams the Internet researching historical bits for our show. Each of us receives a folder custom made for her character, with fuzzy prints from archival sources of possible prototypes of our ladies. We gaze at these long-gone styles of hair and dress, and see that we are old enough to have some history, but the extra edge that comes from true ownership of an era—that's not ours. We have to fake it.
I'm going to visit the site of my old pain. If it gets too much, I'm an actor. I'll fake it.