Back in Bradford

It’s my last night in Bradford, and I wish I had more time.

I always feel this way on writing retreats. Did I make the most of my time here? Was I productive enough? The answer is generally no, no matter how productive I was. I set my goals too high, and for some reason I always bring a bagful of books, as if I’d have time to read all of them. This was my first solo retreat– my first solo trip, actually– and I enjoyed being alone more than I thought I would. On Monday, I didn’t talk to anyone until 6pm when I attended class via FaceTime, and even then I mostly listened. It was glorious.

I’m staying at an Airbnb that is about half a mile from my childhood home. It’s a gorgeous farmhouse with a beautiful front porch, which is where I wrote most of my stay. I remember riding my bike past this house when I was a kid. I’m amazed by how much I remember: the locations of trails my siblings and I walked, the curves of roads and where they led, the smell of the woods and the river, the names of old neighbors. I was also surprised by the things I had forgotten: how dark and quiet this place is at night, the brightness of the stars, how the trees block out the sun on back roads and form natural tunnels. How sometimes the back roads get real scary, dropping to one lane, turning to dirt, and leading up steep inclines. (That happened a few times, and I was so relieved I had a small car and the weather was good.)

I came back to this place to remember. I want to remember. I want to bring this town to life with my words.

Sunday was the 19th anniversary of Tippy’s death. I was 19 when he died. I thought this year might feel different– I thought maybe I’d feel more reflective than usual, or maybe sadder. I don’t know. It seemed like it would be more significant.

It wasn’t really. I miss him as much I always have. As much as I always will.

I visited the crash site early Sunday morning. I hadn’t been there in a long time– over 10 years, I think. I almost missed the spot because it’s so overgrown now. The tree the Malibu hit was chopped down. At first I wasn’t sure if it was actually¬†the¬†tree, but then I saw the missing bark on both the stump and the trunk which lay on the ground to rot. I wondered if the tree had begun to rot long before it was cut down. I pulled out my phone and took pictures, both because I’m morbid and have a constant urge to document everything.

I spent the rest of the day wandering around Bradford. I left flowers at the grave of Mrs. Carr, a tenant of my parents who came with the multi-family house they bought. She was in her 90s when I met her, and I thought she was my third grandmother. I used to visit her often. She always had a bowl of strawberry hard candy in a glass bowl on the kitchen counter. She lived to be 103, and died when I was 10. Until then, no one I loved had died.

I walked by my old house. It’s for sale, and it looks like shit. I hoped someone might come out of the house so I could maybe strike up a conversation, and when no one did I was glad because approaching strangers one of my least favorite things to do.

I saw Katie and Mitch not once, but twice during my stay. I went to her house for dinner on Sunday, and Katie and I met earlier this evening at the Flying Goose Pub in New London. We talked about my book, mostly about how she’s a main character and I wanted to make sure she was OK with that. I still have trouble bringing up the topic without sounding creepy. It’s on the same level as telling someone you dreamed about them.

As nice as this visit has been, I’m not sure when or if I’ll come back. Not like this, anyway. I leave Bradford in the morning, and from there I have to transition back into a life where I have to talk to people. Lauren and I booked another retreat at the Hemingway House in November, so I have that to look forward to. My goal is to have a complete draft of my book completed by December 17th, so a long stretch of time in November will be the final push I need to finish.