About six weeks ago our dear friend Cyn had asked to visit and stay with us this weekend. Since we moved she has missed us and we indeed miss her – she was our next door neighbor to the house we started our family in and many a night we’ve had dinner and a movie together. But there was another reason for her visit: her husband and partner of over two decades was, five years after their divorce, getting re-married this Saturday. And rather than staying in the hometown she and her beloved had met, courted, married, bought a home, started their family, built and then lost their life together she had decided to perform her own ritual. She told me she was planning to throw her wedding ring into the sea. It had suddenly appeared on her desk of its own volition a while earlier. It was time to let it go.
We looked forward to her visit, especially on the tails of Ralph and my vacation (I don’t know if you could meet people more happy to have company than the Hogaboom foursome). But I for one felt like, besides the fellowship and meal-sharing that always happens with Cynthia and her family (including this weekend not her daughter but her two dogs), our role as hosts was somewhat suppressed. Our job was to give her space and facilitation for her mission; to help decide where she would cast the ring and to support her in doing so. Ralph and I had also wanted to go to the Saturday night showing of the Patron’s Pick film Animal House at the 7th Street Theatre and to show her the theatre. She seemed amenable to this plan and we formalized it.
I think the task ended up being a bit daunting for her, especially coming off a heavy work load during the week. On Friday afternoon she called practically from the road on the way down. Usually her visits and her excursions in general are accompanied by studied and detailed planning. Often on a visit to us she asks me for a list of the beloved sundries and groceries I would like from Port Townsend; she has not made a trip down yet without bringing us some beer from our favorite PT brewery. But this weekend she came down, as she put it, “almost empty-handed”, her voice betraying her surprise at the relative impulsiveness of the roadtrip. On the drive down she listened to music near full-volume – something she said she hadn’t done for as long as she could remember.
Ralph knows exactly where to deposit the ring: the jetty at Westport. “We can go to Half-Moon Bay, the moon was a half-moon the other night – one wedding ring!” he exclaims. It is a solid plan. After breakfast Saturday we pack a lunch and extra clothes for the kids and settle the dogs in the van and head out. The weather is stunning and the drive passes quickly. Westport is bright and friendly and busy and we wind our way to the jetty. There are more surfers there than I have yet seen; handsome, attractive sun-swept sleek-suited adventurers of all shapes and ages. The late-summer sun illuminates the mist on the beach and the air is, for a veteran coastal dweller like myself, nourishing as food. As we get out of the car Cynthia realizes with shock she has left the ring back in Hoquiam. We eventually decide this is a scouting trip; the three of us will return in the evening while our kids are being babysat by friends. We walk the jetty, beach paths, and admire the impressive and massive swells that roll into shore. Oily-looking seabirds bob and dive in the water. The sand is hot or cool on one’s feet, depending on where you walk.
After a trip back to town, lunch, nap, dinner, and packing the kids off it turns out our movie gets out later than we’d planned. Making a trip out to the beach again will involve either picking up the children or abandoning our threesome. Cynthia wishes for a place closer. When she says this I can picture the bay at the bend of the highway, out north towards Ocean Shores. It’s not the ocean but it’s a great spot for me – lots of memories, none of them poor. I remember several bonfires; one night “babysitting” two friends as they did acid for the first (and only?) time. I remember a few parked cars and one of Ralph and my first ever makeout expeditions back in the day. It is a peaceful place, a sanctuary for the young to get up to (relatively) harmless fun. We could go out together and be back in time to pick up the children.
The two dogs are excited, game, up for anything. The night is mild, with the languid promise of a slow summer night and the hint of the fall chill. The moon is waxing gibbous, past the half-point, brightening the highway and then the beach. We park and make our way down to the bay – the moon lighting our way and keeping us from spraining ankles. We see the lights of Ocean Shores condos and the industrial ports clustering around harbor. The moon dashes itself against the peaceful, cold waters and flashes in serene acceptance.
Cynthia is trying to find purchase to approach the water so she can really haul that ring out into depths; I know that the beach legs that look like solid footing are actually swampy marsh-grass, not navigable without getting mucky or downright soaked. We walk up and down the bay a bit and find the spot. Ralph and I join our friend, standing back a bit. She contemplates a while, ten feet away and facing southwest to sea. She throws the ring, tied to a rock with beach grass and it splashes distant. She stands one minute more then turns around and walks to stand with us. “Thanks, guys,” she says in a low voice. Ralph holds me and we stand looking out over the water. “It feels good to let it go,” she continues. “I feel sad. But I’m really ready to let something new into my life.” Her voice is thick with weeping and her eyes are smudged with tears.
We return back to town and drive through the night to our house. Cynthia says goodnight and heads to her weekend bed in my parents’ upstairs. Ralph and I drive to East Hoquiam to pick up our children; both have fallen asleep and the living room is a cozy composition of children swaddled in blankets, pillows, and pajamas as a muted viewing of School of Rock plays on the television. We carry our sleeping children back to the van and drive home, settling them in fully-clothed to their beds.