We all met up at my cousin's old Victorian flat that she shared with her boyfriend from Nepal. She was studying architecture at Berkeley. Her organic farmer brother, with his long hair in a ponytail, flew in from Maine. Another cousin was visiting from Nicaragua, where he was working with the Sandinistas to rebuild housing for people who were displaced during the revolution. He spent the weekend pulling us in to every leftist bookstore he saw. His sister drove up from Santa Cruz. She was a freshman at the University of California and told us tales of what it was like to live in co-ed dorms, where the partying and smoky haze never dissipated. We slept on mattresses on the floor just like true Bohemians.
On Thanksgiving day, while the six of us waited for the turkey that we'd basted in wine to roast, my cousins passed around a little something something grown on the farm in Maine. They all looked hip in their tie-dyed t-shirts and peasant blouses. And there I sat in my turtleneck and baby blue Fair Isles sweater, nursing a glass of non-alchoholic sparkling cider. Utterly conventional and not the least bit radical.
Stark contrasts like that have always been a part of my life. Sometimes in comparison I'm the rich one. Sometimes I'm the poor one. Sometimes I'm the smart one. Sometimes I'm the one who doesn't have a clue. Sometimes I'm the faithful seeker. Sometimes I'm the skeptical doubter. But I'm always me.
I've come to realize that I actually seek out the contrasts. And, mostly, I like it that way.