A visit with the family, to occupy spring break. Approached hopefully, cautiously. Love is sometimes complicated. Preparation only serves to awaken anxiety. I pray.
My father’s house, a ghost. Pale shadow of the one we grew up in. The one that smelled of baking bread and dirty children. I stand in the yard and stare up at sentinel hills, peppered with undressed trees. The spaces between the trunks seem to call to me. Beg my body to fill their emptiness. To crush the fallen leaves underfoot and swing on the naked branches.
Older brother stands beside me, telling me about his new family. I breathe in the smell of my home. The place my heart will always quicken. And then I hear him.
“Shhh,” I say, and place my hand on my brother’s arm. “Do you hear that?”
Big sister on my other side grows quiet and still.
We listen. Side by side, the three of us. Incomplete without the other two. But we listen.
His call rings out from the hill above us, and echoes over the field below. The Meadowlark. With each note I feel His presence.
And in the silence following his cries, I hear our hearts beating together.
Old friend. Smiling from the cab of a truck. Time has stood still. This hollow is still home to living memories. His hair is thinner. But the smile is the same. He gives me a jar of homemade apple butter.
The meal is done. Hungry mouths and souls are fed.
Standing at the sink, rubbing shoulders with big sister. Thirty years before, we stood the same. Except, I’m taller now. I no longer need a chair to reach the sink. She, the washer; baby me, always rinsed. And here we are again. Distracted conversation. Snippets from our day. Glances out the window. The world of automatic dishwashers misses this intimate rhythm. The plates come first, and then the bowls. Cups and silverware next. Then the mixing bowls and pots and pans; balanced precariously on the top. My stacking skills have diminished. But I still try. Again, our hearts are one.
A walk after lunch. Parade of children: nieces and sons and friends. They are Moses, walking into their promised land. Dried tree branches a makeshift staff; walking sticks picked up along the way. Into the woods, up the hill. Leaves crunching underfoot. Moss stroked with tender fingers. Ferns provide a soft bed on which to sit. Rocky overhangs a playground perch. The stream tempts them to throw pebbles and overturn rocks. Searching for living treasures. Walking back home, our hearts beat with every step.
Evening came too soon. Nighttime game of wiffle ball still being played in my head. Laughter and screams of joy echoing in my dreams.
Driving home in a misty rain. The fog settles above the trees like pulled cotton, a weightless canopy. I watch for deer on the side of the road. In my rearview mirror, home drifts further away. All I see is the white mist, twirling and floating behind me. And blue eyes staring at me from the back seat. The blue eyes go with me. But I leave another part of me behind.
One thing I know–stories get better with each telling. We wait for our favorite parts, on the edge of our seats, anticipating, nudging and winking. It’s the same reason fast food chains are successful everywhere: we love to know what to expect. There is comfort in familiarity. There is fellowship in sharing the memories, over and over again.
My story is still being told. But the chapters already written are so beautiful; they make my heart become quiet. God has whispered these stories over me. He sings my memories to me. He gives me these people to love.
It feels good. Like apple butter on a slice of warm homemade bread. The sweetness melts in my mouth.