Yesterday was a cold damp day. I’d been reading Where the Crawdads Sing and thinking about abandonment.
I wasn’t abandoned like Kya, the protagonist in that book, but I was abandoned psychologically. My mother was checked out, and always in some feud with her own family: her mother, her twin sister, her brothers. I didn’t know any of them. Or their children, my cousins.
When my mother died in ’95, a lot of my cousins came to the funeral home. So did my uncles. So did my grandmother. So did my aunt. I had to introduce myself to all my cousins. I didn’t introduce myself to my uncles, but I hardly recognized them. We went to a local diner afterwards and they said, “We should keep in touch now that we’ve found each other again.”
I knew we wouldn’t.
A few years later, when my grandmother died, nobody called me.
A long time ago I moved up here to the wilds of northern PA to go to college, to start a new life, to find myself.
I was lost. I was alienated. I felt misunderstood and emotionally abandoned by my family.
I started a little yoga community here.
And now my old life is starting to find me. I don’t look for it, I don’t ask for it. It just walks in, rolls out a mat, does a few sun salutations and before it leaves it says, “My name is Greg Simkiss.”
And I think to myself: “I used to have a crush on a kid in first grade named Simkiss.”
And I say this to the Simkiss that has just done sun salutations in my studio. This handsome boy in his 20s on his way to California to work on a pot farm. This boy who is going to sleep in his car after yoga and continue west in the morning.
I say to him: I used to have a crush on a kid named Simkiss when I was in first grade.
Turns out this is the son of my crush.
I let him sleep in the studio under yoga blankets, instead of in his cold car.
I grew up in Levittown. I didn’t like it there. Called it “Leave-it-town.” My one goal as a teenager was to do just that.
One day a few years after I opened my studio a woman came in to practice yoga and I noticed she said “wudder” not “water.”
I said to her, “Where are you from?” She said, “Levittown.”
I said, “Where in Levittown?” She said, “Cobalt Ridge.”
Turns out I rode my bike past her house a million times.
A woman with the last name of Lackey has just started practicing yoga with me. My grandmother used to say my sister looked like a Lackey.
I had no idea what that meant. I had no idea what a Lackey was or what one looked like. It was just something I heard a lot when I was a little.
I told this to the woman with the last name of Lackey who is doing yoga with me now.
When I told her my mother’s maiden name, it sounded familiar she said, a name her husband’s family mentioned. She’s going to ask him about it.
The people who stumble upon this studio sometimes call my place “a find.” They like the vibe here, they say. They are surprised to find it up here in Nowheres-ville, a place they’ve come to vacation, or are passing through on their way to somewhere else.
I came here to find myself so many years ago. I came here to lose my inherited burden of alienation, and to create a new life. And now it seems like my past is trying to find me, connect me, sew me back into itself.
Just like Kya, in my youth I feared connection. I found comfort and cover in alienation. But then I opened my studio. I hung out my sign. I opened myself up to connection, and over the years it’s been happening. People walk in to practice sun salutations and end up moving and breathing me back to that life I abandoned so long ago, and to show me I was connected all along.