Don’t Panic

I am on a train platform staring westward with my fellow Monday morning commuters. Dateline: Paoli, Pennsylvania, the western terminus of The Main Line, seventy miles south of New York City. It is 7:56 a.m. I am going home.

The blood settles in my ears, and I begin to hear the sounds of this suburban morning. Crickets stir in the bushes. Robins dart about the treetops, scurrying in this cool, pre-autumnal morning for their breakfast. Lancaster Avenue, the great wagon road between Philadelphia and Lancaster County, is a low whirl of traffic behind me. All is peaceful as the day awakes and Amtrak #62 wheezes into the station. I climb aboard, place my suit bag and sportcoat overhead, and settle into my backward-facing seat.

My mother, God bless her, traipsed this very route between Paoli and New York daily when Chris and I were in high school. For us, is was a boon of parentally unsupervised time. For us, it was time to throw rocks at cars, squirrel away beer in the garage, and sneak brief road trips in the wood paneled Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser station wagon, affectionately called The Brown Bomber. For my mother, I can only imagine, it was a never ending blur of passing scenery and increasing distance between herself and her brood, and crushing the responsibility therein.

My parents were not much older than I am now when they divorced. As I gear up for a fall occupied with studio time, business trips, exotic vacations and the complex decisions of whether to have dinner uptown or down, they were wrestling, I imagine, with mortgages, careers, boys on the edge of adolescents, and the sometimes slow, sometimes sudden collapse of their thirteen year marriage. I chip away at my ever-growing daily to do list, a line of supervisees forming at my office door, and wonder if their lives every felt this busy.

My primary partner on the dance floor last night was Kevin’s two-year-old daughter Jordan. She stomps and claps with the music, giggling as I shower her in rose petals. I retreat to the perimeter where Kevin watches and smiles. “Kev, you’re kid’s wearing me out,” I say.

“Dude,” he says staring off into the night, “You have no idea.”

I type now as the train pulls into the darkness of 30th Street Station. Jonhnette Napolitano & Danny Lohrer’s cover of ‘The Scientist’ fills my headphones.

“Nobody said it would be easy, no one ever said that it would be this hard.”

Tears well up from my chest, though I’m not sure why. They’ve been doing so more often of late, which is something of a relief. It’s been a while. Maybe they’ll spill over these eyelids one of these days.

For now, though, I stand, and find a new seat for the final leg between 30th and Penn Stations. For now, I will face forward.

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