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Elan Vitae


  • Shena Driscoll Salvato


It’s funny how what others, more seasoned, had always shared to be true really turned out to be so. It goes by sooo fast. They change so much while it doesn’t seem that we’ve changed that much at all. Days can last a lifetime but a lifetime can feel like it passed by in a day. One thing I don’t remember anyone talking about is how those places, those that shelter those everyday, seemingly casual conversations, change: from a pile of Lego bricks on the floor, to a random assortment of playthings in the tub, to a bedtime story snuggle, to ingredients and utensils and random spills on the kitchen counter, to the light-filled slopes below as we silently glide up the hill with the swoosh, swoosh of those descending below us, to the leaf-covered trail through the woods as we walk with the dogs, to the water as we hear the gentle lap of the wake from the canal, and now, to the road: side-by-side, driving to a dance lesson. I hadn’t anticipated that those places that housed and witnessed our exchanges would change as time passed.

What we had specifically talked about in those places throughout the years has long escaped my memory, but what has remained is the sense of connection, the feeling of us better understanding and knowing one another, the comfort of just being in the same place at the same time, the natural flow of words and sharing. Perhaps what was happening, or not, in each place was what fostered that easy flow of words, like a a stick flowing down a stream or a leaf tumbling across the icy surface of a pond.

Some time after our newest place had become the front seats on our commute to dance class, I had heard someone on a podcast or audiobook, I can’t remember which, say that driving in a car is an ideal place to connect with your teenager. There’s something about sitting side-by-side, the speaker said, not facing one another or making eye contact, that allows the conversation to flow, uninhibited. I laughed on our drive one day when I remembered this and heard it unfolding before my ears.

What happens to be landed upon while scanning through the satellite radio stations has fostered much of this latest round of connecting, understanding, knowing, being. We often shock one another: I, singing along to a song from my era that she surprisingly asks, “How do you know that song?” I, in turn, equally surprised, reply with a question, “How do you know that song?” Most often, it is from a recent movie that has revived the classic for a new generation, unknowing that it is really from their parents’ time. Another song, released within the last dozen years, receives the reaction, “This song is so old. I haven’t heard it in forever.” The most recent, and most surprising intersection came for me when, not only did she not change the station when the Bee Gees classic flowed through the speakers (she’s always the DJ on these rides and I typically have a sense for when she’ll change the station), but I hear, in tandem with the Gibb brothers, “More than a WOman, more than a WOman to meee…” My head snaps toward her: “You KNOW this song? How?” “Yeah. It’s on TikTok.” Another unexpected crossing of the generations. Me: “This is the BEE GEES. Remember I told you about dressing up as a cassette tape for Halloween when I was about five? It was THEIR band written on the tape! That’s how much a liked them.” Her: “Oh yeah. Wasn’t that the time you were bullied by the kid on the street watching the parade?” Me: “Yep. Someone shouted, ‘Bee Gees suck! I was so distraught.’” We both laughed. She had remembered the story and now she was singing one of the songs. I was taken back to rounding the corner at that intersection of the short, slightly uphill street to pass the world-famous restaurant in our teeny-tiny town, and now our generations were intersecting through these lyrics, she, already so much older than I was then.

But for me, the irony of that song and its lyrics lingered, “More than a woman,” which she was suddenly turning out to be. While I had probably been familiar with that song all of my life, I had never really paid attention to the words beyond those of the chorus, so out of curiosity, I looked them up: “Oh, girl, I've known you very well. I’ve seen you growing every day.” Yes. Then later, “Oh, say you'll always be my baby, we can make it shine. We can take forever, just a minute at a time.” Yes. And then it hits me. I HAVE known her very well. I HAVE seen her growing every day. No matter how she grows, I know she will always be my baby. I know that these places will continue to change forever, but it’s in those minutes where our connection really shines. Here we were, talking side-by-side. Hadn’t she just been talking to me and singing from the back seat behind me? From the booster seat behind me? From the carseat behind me with her feet swinging over the edge? From the from rear-facing infant seat, her cooing lips and angelic face captured in the reflection of the baby mirror? This time next year, I’ll be the one in the passenger seat. It goes by sooo fast. They change so much while it doesn’t seem that we’ve changed that much at all. Days can last a lifetime but a lifetime can feel like it passed by in a day. Those places have held it all.


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