Thursday, February 9, 2017

Eight Years Ago Was a Very Good Day

You know how Facebook likes to remind you of posts from previous years? Today mine recalled a post I wrote eight years ago: "I have been reunited with my luggage, and am about to go riding on a beach in Durban (really!)!"

That was a fantastic day--a fantastic gallop on a bright white entirely empty beach, surf crashing, searing South African summertime sun, my Zulu guide, Cyprian, with his head thrown back, laughing--I remember that day like it was yesterday. I treasure it. Today it was a very good memory for me as I continue to be frustrated by my concussion, because that good day in Africa was born out of a bad day in Bristol, a bad day which led to a lot of good changes in my life.

Nine years ago, nearly exactly, my husband ruptured his Achilles tendon while coaching middle school basketball. The surgical repair did not go as well as we hoped, and recovery was long and difficult. For several bleak winter months my husband thought he'd have to give up his passion, golf, and he wrestled with frustration as well as physical pain. (Being my husband, he took exactly two days off work, for an injury that usually sidelines people for six months or more.) I was just beginning the four-year odyssey that would result in my book Jefferson's Sons, the book that ended up transforming the way I write. Of course I didn't know that at the time.

In recovery my husband spent a lot of time on the computer, looking for websites and chat rooms about golf and golf course architecture--if he wasn't going to play golf he was at least going to study it. I decided to knit a pair of socks. It was January, 2008, a summer Olympic year, and I was sort-of friends with a person who had a shot at making our Olympic team in my esoteric sport, eventing. (Now that my daughter fences, I understand that fencing is much like eventing: even though making the Olympic team in any sport is really, really tough, the number of overall participants in fencing is so small nearly every one who fences knows at least one former Olympian. I had two pointed out to me at my daughter's recent fencing match.) Anyway I sat down and designed a pair of Olympic socks, and they were really cool, and for some reason they pissed my husband off. We'd be at another middle school basketball game, and one of the other parents would ask what I was knitting, and I'd say, "A pair of socks for a friend of mine that might make the Olympic team." My husband would interrupt with, "She is NOT your friend." Dunno why. I had the woman's cell phone number, and if I called her she'd pick up with, "Hello, Kim" because she had mine. That was friendship in my book. Still is.

But I knew my husband was suffering so I didn't let him get to me. Until spring, that is, when he announced that he'd invited one of his new internet friends, a man prominent in golf course architecture, plus the man's entire family--wife, two kids--to spend a weekend with us at our house in the mountains. "We've never met these people!" I said.

My husband said, "SO? You're knitting Olympic socks!"

I sort of got what he meant. Who was I, to knit socks for a famous person? (Famous in a small pond, but still--famous) Who was he, to entertain famous people at our home? (Famous in a small pond, but still--famous).

My friend made the Olympic team. She loved the socks. She made the team again in 2012; not only did I make her another pair of socks, I went and watched her compete. Not kidding.

My husband's friend came with his kids and wife and we had a fantastic time. Halfway through dinner the first night, well into our second bottle of wine, the architecture guy said, "Hey, we've got a group going to South Africa for two weeks this winter--you guys should join us."

My husband and I looked at each other and grinned. What the hell.  We'd learned a thing or two. "We'd love to," we said, and we did. We loved every minute of that trip. Furthermore, taking it--taking the risk of taking it--opened our world in a thousand different ways. It made us unafraid of reaching out to people and unwilling to postpone adventure.

My husband got hurt, and then he got adventuresome. I knit socks, and ended up at the Olympic games. I'm sitting here healing my head, working on my new manuscript, learning to write a movie script, and planning my travel calendar for the year. I can't wait to see what's happening next.