Monday, June 3, 2013

Going Home -- Part 1

I need a twist tie to close a plastic bag of popcorn. At home I know where we keep things like that. My mother’s apartment is a different story. Well, maybe not. After opening and closing a few drawers, I say to myself, stop, think, where would I put them?....

I look in a little drawer next to her kitchen stove. Bingo. I think I’ve heard somewhere that an acorn doesn’t fall far from the oak….

except when it does. Forty years ago I said goodbye to my boyhood home in a small town in flat, rural northwest Ohio. I followed a circuitous route to the mountainous countryside of southwest Virginia, where visitors often envy our relatively rare, level, bottomland field of twenty-five acres in a valley capped on the east by the Appalachian Trail, an eight-hour drive from childhood memories. Of course, I have childhood memories without driving anywhere, but….

that popcorn bag boasts “100% Whole Grain,” truly unusual, setting it apart from the competitors, whose corn must be popped in halves or quarters. Now I’m sounding like my father, a scientist, not a lawyer, who taught us not to take statements at face value.

Names crawl from the woodwork, like roaches sometimes hard to grab before they disappear. What’s in a name? Forgotten stories, connections, relatives, former play when words do not. When I drove past Henry’s, a restaurant, the parking lot was full. The name has not changed since a small plane crashed thirty years ago, my friend leaving a widow and four children. Another Henry, this time not a surname, piled thousands of pennies in stacks on the furniture, windowsills and floorboards of his bedroom, better than a sign saying “Do Not Vacuum!”

Some things don’t rub off. I’ve never been disciplined enough to keep houseplants alive for long. Any indoor greenery in my house is in nursery school, anxious to graduate. Our eyes focus on the yard, paddocks and pasture. A day after checking Mother’s patio plants for dryness I finally noticed her indoor succulents. They probably know she’s on leave for a few days and figure they’ll draw moisture from the air until she returns.

I consider sitting in the back pew on Sunday morning until my mother reminds me my sister will not be there to introduce me. That ritual almost guarantees a long service if you count the walk out afterwards, answering over and over again the searching question, “Where are you these days?” Several options come to mind. "Here, don’t I look like it?” “Virginia, near the Natural Bridge.” Maybe “In a happy place,” or “Having fun figuring it out.”

Roxie’s in a funk. Karen worries she’s about to die in her mud hole, the film set of the classiest mud spa in Arnold’s Valley. Last time she was pregnant, she gathered grass to line her little barn. This time she limps on a hind leg, as if piglets are packed inside unable to exit, and I’m a mile away for each of her five hundred pounds, unable to assist in any way. At home I might be able to lift a bit of her or sing “This little piggy.”

Instead, I look out on a gray Sunday, watching a breeze that smells like a beach morning push the Amish rocker I forgot to bring inside last night. Safe inside, the twisted wood rests still, silent, and lonely without my father. Rock-a-bye, baby.

"What's this 'going home' business?" says Virginia.

Not what you might think. Perhaps you'll keep reading the installments yet to come.

1 comment:

  1. You're setting yourself up saying Part 1, aren't you? Awaiting Part 2.