On Sunday afternoon, I went with Christina & Co. to see Ordinary Boys, a Smiths cover band, at a bar in downtown Sanford. Actually, we thought we were going to see two cover bands, the first called New Dawn Fades, a New Order cover band, and then Ordinary Boys, but it turned out to be one group of musicians with two identities, a concept that I appreciated. So first we had New Order music, then The Smiths music, and interspersed at the end — in a move that had most of the bar crowded onto the dance floor and singing along — a few random 80s songs, including Tears for Fears and Simple Minds.

So much fun!

I am really glad that people don’t smoke in bars anymore, because in the midst of my nostalgic trip, I did notice that key difference to the bars of my early 20s. I’m also glad I don’t drink anymore, because we got there around 2:45, left at around 6:45, and four hours of drinking in a fun, boisterous, musical environment would have killed me even back then. Instead I got to thoroughly enjoy the music, then come home and play with my dog and eat a healthy quinoa bowl for dinner: win-win. And a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Two of the members of Ordinary Boys on stage

Ordinary Boys, on stage

It was not the only nostalgic event of the weekend. On Saturday, we went to see a live version of the Rocky Horror Picture Show at a local Sanford theater. Wow! I’ve only seen Rocky Horror once previously (hmm, maybe twice, another memory just popped into my head of a movie theater on Castro Street in San Francisco), and never a live version, and that was back in my Clarkson years, eons ago. That show is so weird! There was no throwing things at the actors, fortunately, and the audience was quite tame, but the cast was energetic, enthusiastic, and looked like they were having a great time. Also really good. I did wonder about auto-tune, tbh, because the voices were so great and the technology — lighting, video, music, mics — was all top-notch for a small theater, and it’s certainly possible that technology was helping the musicians a bit. But the acting and the dancing and the having fun was all real people doing a great job.

Watching people perform always leaves plenty of room for my brain to wander, though, so it spent a lot of time wandering through the past. As it happens, I’d done a fair amount of that on Friday, too, and much less happily, because on Friday, I went to Costco.

You might think, Costco?! Nostalgia? And you’d be right. Except this Costco was achingly familiar, from a period so long ago that it hurt. I used to drive near that Costco 5 days a week, taking R to-and-from school, back when he was in a private middle school for kids with learning disabilities. It was not the happiest time of my life. I was commuting two hours a day (half an hour there, half an hour back home, 2x a day), working hard and entirely remotely while trying not to think about how much I hated my job, and living in a place that was more house than we needed in a neighborhood that would never feel like home.

But oh, how I loved my boy. Every day we listened to the Zombie Survival Guide on audiobook in the car — over and over again, multiple times, we just got to the end and started at the beginning again — and discussed our own zombie survival strategies. Of which Costco was a huge part, actually! We’d decided that the best plan was to move into the top shelves at the Costco aisles. Use height to our advantage in fighting the zombies, with plenty of supplies right next to us.

He wasn’t happy there either — neither one of us were happy — but I had decided that my priority in life, our priority, was for him to overcome his learning disabilities. That was how we wound up in Florida. The public school in California, where we’d been living, had made it clear that middle school was going to be a sink-into-mediocrity experience for him. He couldn’t go to the middle school where most of his friends would go — an excellent charter school — because they didn’t take kids with learning disabilities. And even though he wasn’t “remediated” to the extent his intelligence suggested was possible, he was no longer far enough under grade level to qualify for support. Our options were limited. The one private school in CA was insanely expensive, nothing I could remotely afford. I looked at schools in Washington, in Massachusetts, finally in Florida. Florida won. But we didn’t love it here, especially back then.

But, oh, I loved him. I would have done anything for him. Giving up my cute house within walking distance to the beach so that he could learn to read was a sacrifice I was willing to make. Giving up my career ambitions, the possibility of achieving the kind of corporate success I’d unthinkingly expected, was a no-brainer. He was my everything.

And now, of course, he is not a part of my life. I think of him with love, I try to only send the typical loving-kindness energy his way (may he be well, may he be happy, may he be loved) when his name crosses my mind, but I also think of him as someone lost to me.

I don’t think I’ve ever shared this story here, but I actually had a major breakthrough in coping with our estrangement when I started thinking of him — the real him, the R who still exists in the world — as a zombie. Someone who had been bitten by zombies, hopefully against their will, and was no longer the same person. Because no one wants to become a zombie. No one chooses to get turned into a zombie! And yet once they’ve been bitten, you have to say good-bye. You can’t keep trying to get someone who wants to hurt you, who will eat your brain, into your life. You have to let go, and let go with love and grief and sorrow, but also by choosing to save yourself.

So yeah, I went to the Costco we used to go to, back in the days when we listened to the Zombie Survival Guide every day, and planned to save ourselves by moving into the Costco, and my heart just broke. All the pieces so painstakingly held together with the duct tape of my choices for happiness and health, just… broke. It was not a good afternoon.

But I did my best to breathe and to let myself feel my feelings, to remember that young R with love, and to forgive the zombie R who exists in my imagination, and to get through. And I did. And the next day I went to Rocky Horror, and remembered the me that existed when I was 17, wide-eyed and confused, and the day after I went to Ordinary Boys and remembered the me that existed at 21, the smoking-drinking-dancing me, and I remembered those past selves with love and amusement and compassion.

And it made me remember that 30-something self with more love, too. I tried so hard. If I had known where trying so hard would take me, I would have done things differently, no question about that. But there is no rewriting the past.

Anyway. Today I’m going to choose to be happy, and that means it’s time to walk my poor patient dog and live here in the present for a while. I’m grateful, though, that I got to have some really good nostalgia this weekend. Two thumbs up for live music and time with friends.