I sat eating ice cream and brownies, pushing my foot off of the wood floor, rocking. Listening. For hours. Laughter that all sounded the same rose up from the hundred year old table. Hands that looked the same clenched and unclenched, rubbed up and down worn jeans, calloused fingers followed the seams in the tablecloth. Eyes that all looked the same glistened. An afternoon passed under a hard working ceiling fan and a thick haze of memories. A baby cooed and life marches on and all, but the story of how The Boyfriend made the band teacher quit will never go away.
One of the brothers was going to camp down by The Creek for the night. By himself. In a tent. And as I mulled that idea over, his brother checked his phone. Announced that "they" were still a few hours away.
They. The ones that were bringing the ashes of their sister back home.
They spread some of her ashes in the Redwood Forest, he said. And in Estes Park. And soon, down by The Creek. And The Boyfriend's momma's tears slid down her cheeks, and the laughter from the stories died down, as each person sitting at the long table paused for a second. A slow second. Each lost with a half smile on their faces. A smile that looked the same. I watched as a cacophony of noisy days spread across their faces. Shared days from long before me.
"There's a lot of ashes down by that creek," The Boyfriend told me once. And there's really nothing more you can say after that. Because it's Heaven, that creek. And I can't imagine why you wouldn't want to go back there in the end.
They're going to burn her journals, and I was startled at first. Down at the creek where the ashes all mix in with the dirt and the trees and the rain. But then ... there's something soothing in the idea that her thoughts will mix together with everything else that has come before. Somehow, it just seems to make sense.
Two sisters stand side by side as The Boyfriend shows them how to work the new weed eater. I stand by and watch amused, and think about how there are pictures scattered all across the kitchen table. Old pictures. Babies that now have babies with babies. The breeze blew through the opened porch door and the corners of the photos lifted. Itching to move. Half a dozen piles. Half a dozen people to send them to. "This is from the girl's trip we took," she says, laughing. Her shoulders scrunching up by her ears. Her head thrown back. Her black hair cut short - much shorter than it is in the pictures I was holding. "We had such a good time." I think about how her long hair in those pictures looks like my own momma's.
Two sisters standing side by side. Each of them with the same laugh. Shoulder scrunch. Each of them squinting over the weed eater parts in the same way. Just like they squinted over their pictures together. One trying to learn so she can help the other. Both fiercely independent.
"You would've liked my grandma," The Boyfriend said on the way home.
Yes. I believe I would've.
I sat all weekend and listened to their stories. Trying to piece together which kid came from which home. Marveling at how one family has pictures in front of the same house for so long. Marveling at how they all look the same. Act the same. Love the same.
I absorbed them for an entire afternoon.
I had to google the name of a pine worm.
And the name of a river in Louisiana.
And the Latin entomology of a word ending.
Learners, I eventually decided. All of them are learners. Spongy, laughing learners.
All of them different, yet each with tentacles of sameness.
And they're all eventually pulled back home. Where the truck from the oldest kitchen table pictures is still behind the barn, grass growing up through the cab. Where the hundred-year-old table is "great-grandma's," and where Jo-Jo can squint down at a picture from 1980 and proudly proclaim that she does, indeed, still have that same pot.
Oh my stars.
Thank goodness for roots.
. About Moi .
I love, love, love flannel sheets and I am really passionate about lists on post it notes and most of the time I'm sad that no one else is as excited as I am about Diet Mountain Dew. I also adore run-on sentences. And if you need an awesome virtual assistant, who is full of personality and really good jokes? Email me. I'm your girl.
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He saw her before he saw
anything else in the room.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
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