>This the first I’ve written in a while, which is a bit sad. Life has been so busy lately, so hectic, that by the time I’m home for the night, I just want to relax. But I had to come back to myself. Here goes.
The wife and I recently visited a place I haven’t seen in, well, it has to have been at least 10 years. My aunt died over nine months ago, and my cousins are still accumulating trinkets from her life — pictures of her, crafts she had labored over, clothes she had left behind. And they are fixing up her house, the one she raised her three boys in, the same one she was raised in with my mother and other siblings. Though I never lived there, I might as well have. I spent so much of the first five years of my life there, playing with my cousins. But life got in the way — all the entanglements of broken relationships and complications of life got in the way. They seem to expand and touch each family member, as a broken wave crawls its way up to the highest grains of sand at tide. I didn’t see my cousins as much, nor did I see my aunt as much once I got a little older. Once a year, maybe.
So walking back into that house Sunday was a jolt to my system; the shocks traveled from my external senses and up to the far reaches of my brain, into annals I hadn’t touched in a decade.
The musty smell of the cramped utility room and the shadows that cloaked the exposed wall joints actually scared me, as they had as a five year old.
The angle of the kitchen counter top reminded me of the glass cookie jar she used to have packed-to-the-lid for us: Oreos and those buttermilk cookies with the holes in the middle, the ones you can stack five-high on your index finger.
The smell of honeysuckle and grass blades flooded my head when I went to the backyard, though it had been changed much by my cousins’ updating. The old metal shed that reeked of lawn mowers and gasoline and whose sides were splotched with rust was gone; only a slab of concrete remained. The clothesline, that my grandmother had put in and that stretched almost the whole width of yard left only two holes in the earth. The chain link fence was seemingly un-linked by the ivy crawling up it sporadically. But the three slabs of dirty concrete, probably two feet by two feet each, were still beside the air conditioner. Even the metal handle, rusted as it was to the middle slab, was still there. That was back when the house only had the septic tank, which the slabs led into.
The weeds around the neighborhood were still there. Walking through neighbors’ yards and the woods which surorunded them, the switches and vines grabbed at our bare legs, swishing our shins while my aunt led our expedition to the creek nearby, then to her old elemntary school.
The pear tree in the front yard had shrunk; it was much shorter than I thought it as a child. And though it was still alive, its leaves and fruit were far fewer. The crags and cracks in its bark showed up like wrinkles on skin. It had been so long.
Life was so different as a child, when the world seemed so immovable, and all was black and white. It was either scary, like the utility room, or it was fun and adventurous, like the treks through the weeds.
And you never think it will change. The trees will always be strong, fertile, and tall. The clothes line won’t be taken away. And we’ll always play in the back yard or walk through the woods, itchy as it was. She’ll always be here.
How quickly we are reminded of what was. And in a strange way, sometimes we hope for it again.