Gift


A remarkable gift from Dad rests quietly on my desk. I didn’t tell him how much it meant, and doubt words could have formed a fitting sentence. Unwrapping it two days ago still feels like a dream, placing it gently on my desk provided a whispering pinch,  I was awake.

There I am on the upper left surrounded by my siblings. My beautiful older sister tilts her head cheekily, below her a brother whose faded image still shines with a “head up shoulders straight”  no nonsense approach in life. Below me little sister exudes mischievous joy as baby brother looks faintly down from above.

Dad’s gift took me home. Home isn’t where we live, it’s where we came from. A vine, twisted and permanent without demands of explanation or regret. Sometimes the greatest gift is a reminder of sinuous tendrils that bind us.

My gift rests where it belongs; a enchanted corner of my world that beckons without remorse. This is my family, thank you Dad.

 

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Recollections


I’m convinced this happened. In part because I know it did, coupled with inexplicable occasions of imagery and sensation. Clouded by perception,  recollections flourish as forces independent of memory .

I didn’t know my mother was a writer; she was a school teacher – went to work every morning,  marked papers at night. We lived on a farm; Mom and Dad, five children – practically a litter of puppies. My sister ten months older, brother eleven months younger, five of us separated by five years.

I remember the oddest things, more often than not smell triggers a snapshot. Bees wax evokes blinding memory of the washing machine tub Dad rigged to extract honey from his bee hive frames. Turning the handle, brass spigot honey drips fill a pail. Magic of sagebrush after summer rain  takes my breath away. One whiff and I’m six again, picking sunflowers on a hillside.Red feathers bolt to the table my father patiently crafts lures for fly fishing.

I remember the doorbell , but can’t picture the man behind it. I smell acrid flashbulbs of the reporter, my mother surrounded by smiling bewildered children against the backdrop of a bookshelf. Even when that bookshelf contained a new set of Encyclopedia Britannica,  my mother’s name embossed on pages of the volume  “Stories From Around the World” – it didn’t occur to me she was anything but a school teacher. I wasn’t old enough to understand she published her first story at seventeen, coincidentally in Seventeen magazine.  Had I known the runner up for the story contest was Sylvia Plath, it wouldn’t have made a difference. I didn’t know she was a writer.

Memories dissolve with age,  becoming pages in a book. Reading it over and over until each word is  known by heart. Time omits pages that make us uncomfortable,  re-writes passages as maturity burdens us with insight. Without warning sensory triggers  cast a spell so powerful, we stand defenseless as years melt away.

I’ve given up trying to remember specific events, living for moments when triggers take me to another time and place. Uninvited recollections live as whispers in the breeze. Gazing at night skies a gust of wind might blow to resting on damp grass, my mother keeping us up past bedtime to wish upon falling stars.  When least expected the smell of bacon in a cast iron pan takes me to an old canvas tent in the woods. Straining to picture Mom proves elusive but I know she’s there, teaching us important things as my father stays home on the orchard. Memories of her depression and bouts of madness live in pages of a dusty old book. I only read them if I want to.Knowing she was a writer wouldn’t change a thing, recollections of the crazy farmhouse I grew up in don’t care for analysis, they march to a different drummer.