A little News From the Hill
Recently FACEBOOK popped up on my phone with a notice that said - While you weren't looking - and then went on to explain in detail what people were doing in my absence. I found this slightly strange. Oddly disconcerting. As if there was a tad of guilt attached to that observation. But I thought I'd use that on this update sans the guilt. No guilt here. Besides, it's hard for you not to be looking when I'm not sending you words. While you weren't looking . . . storms rolled through Tennessee that have left thousands of us without power. It's an inconvenience to be certain. We are geared for things being charged and ways to see around the dark corners. Thankfully there has to my knowledge been no breakdown of civility. Case in point I stopped my car in the middle of the road after making a coffee run this early am to talk to some strangers I saw in their yards.
"Morning. Ya'll got any power?"
"No, honey. This here is my daughter's house and she is with CEMC. They got lights on. I live back down the road that away." She points in the direction of where I'm headed up the hill to my house. "And we got nothin."
"Me neither. Well, ya'll hang in there."
I drive up the hill thinking how pretty and green everything is. Wondering who bought that house with the pretty yard that looks out over the meadow and the river because my thoughts can go that way. Then I make it in the dark house and wake Mama up to say, "If you want your coffee at least lukewarm you better sit up in bed and drink it now." She does and asks me if I will bring mine in the bedroom to sit with her and so I do. Cause I can be like that too.
We talk about how by now everything in the fridge and freezer has gone bad. She wants to know if the Power company is gone give us some kind of credit for these days in the dark and tells me it's been too long now. I agree. It's been too long. Too long for comfort. And I think about all the friends and family who endured no power for weeks after Hurricane Michael and the residents of Puerto Rico who went months without power and how life can change on a dime or with a storm.
For just a moment I have enough charge to reach internet. Enough charge left on laptop to write. Imagine weeks of nothing. No communication. No way to connect with the outside world. To tell the news or receive it. Share a story or a recipe. The new dark ages they would be.
A slight breeze picks up, finds the window. It's still early enough that the air is cool compared to what it will be. Maybe I should open all the windows now. Try to fill the house with air while there is air to be had.
Yesterday. The storms rolled in again. Me and Mama sat in the dark of the living room. She asked me if I wanted to go sit awhile on the porch and I said ok but we have to hurry before it hits. She hurry's as best she can. Then we sit and the dogs sit. They will tolerate a little of this - the wind whipping and the trees blowing - but at the first loud clap of thunder they are ready for shelter and not the silliness of watching a storm roll in.
Mama says - "Do you remember me rocking with you and us watching the storms through the window?"
"I do Mama."
"I never wanted you to be afraid. I was so afraid of storms so I didn't want my child to afraid like me so I rocked you but I'm sure I put the chair back away from the window. We weren't in danger or anything."
"You also held me in your arms and we stood right by the window and watched them."
"Well, I just didn't want you to be afraid." She rocks and thinks a minute. "When I was six and that's a big girl to be so afraid I started crying and I remember I went to another room, we called it the side room cause it was just a little room on the side of the porch where company slept and that's where I went to cry cause I was ashamed and didn't want anyone to see me. John found me and come and picked me up and told me it was okay. Was nothing to be afraid of and I was alright."
I can tell by the way she is telling it that the memory is up close. Something that feels like right now and yesterday. John was the Uncle John of my stories. When we happened to both be living in South Florida close to Miami he pulled me outside during a storm to watch heat lighting in the clouds putting on a show worth laying your money down for. He was about ten years older than Mama but died now what seems like over twenty years ago. How does that happen? These people of ours passing though leaving such big footprints behind. We never imagined in all of our years, in all of their coming, there would come the day of there going and staying gone.
"One night during a big storm lightning struck our television and a ball of fire shot out of it and rolled across the floor. A ball I tell you. There was a big sound like an explosion when it hit and then I watched as this ball of fire rolled out of the TV set and across the floor until it disappeared."
"Where was I?"
"I imagine in a storm like that I had you in my arms because that's what I would have done unless I had laid you down for a minute. But you weren't on the floor with the fireball I can tell you that much."
"And I guess that television was history."
"Oh, it was history alright. Wasn't nothing left of it."
"Well, Mama that was something to see."
"A fireball rolling across the floor."
"Yes, it was sure something."
A fireball. Vaguely I have a strange memory. One of the air changing with the hiss of expectation to explosion, of a ball Made of all the colors of red and orange and yellow at once stirred together into something alive and magnetic, something powerful escaping the confines of that old Zeneth tv console. At the edges of my mind there is my mother young and frightened and full of wonder. The memory is either mine from ages past or something I've inherited now. A story passed down for the taking. As all stories are.
We sit till the trees bend low, the birds find shelter and the dogs lead us back inside where we will spend the night in silence that come with a street tossed to the darkness of dreams. Where everyone hopes and imagines they will wake suddenly to the flash of lights, the hum of machines kicking on again, the air conditioner sighing with relief as it resumes its long, trudge uphill against the summer.
Blessings to each of you as you walk that tightrope of your days between the darkness and the light.
Yesterday was one of those Sundays that could have been a Saturday because it turned out to be sweep and shake rugs day. Not very Sunday-ish at that point but on the Sabbath of Saturday Me and mama had rested and watched Grantchester on DVD's we discovered at McKay's. It was a quiet and peaceful day in the midst of a dusty house.
Sunday began with me cooking breakfast for us - eggs, bacon and rye toast. I don't like to make breakfast. Except on Sundays. I heard Mom tell someone on the phone as I placed her breakfast on her tray, "Yes, she's made me breakfast. She is being nice to me because it's Sunday. Fact is - I am nice everyday - but the week is so busy and I am always behind deadline on something so breakfast is a quick thing like cereal or oatmeal or protein shakes and then its off to the races. But Sundays are special. They are all about the long breakfast and God and church and football and the paper. For me that means grabbing the New York Times out of the driveway, snatching the Book Review, The Travel Section, the Arts section, a second cup of coffee and then beginning to read about faraway places and books I long to read, the plays I'd love to see. It's a vicarious traveling experience without ever leaving our hill.
In the midst of this ritual when Mama's phone rang I suggested she just tell whoever it was that we were having a leisurely Sunday breakfast and reading The Times. She replied, I don't read the New York Times and answered the phone. (Insert the -She's being nice to me comment here because its Sunday here) I passed her another section of The New York Times she claims not to read. (She has a preference for the wedding section but is enthrawled with the new things she learns about education or science or amazing things that have nothing to do with politics. I sip my coffee, turn a page.
After breakfast we started cleaning. And cleaning. And cleaning some more. For those of you who don't know we have been in the midst of moving Mama in with me forever and ever. It has also been in the midst of trying to repair this old house in a hundred ways and then searching for ways to move more things in from her 50 year stay at the little house in Panama City where I grew up. She is a squatter. I am a gypsy traveler with squatter tendencies - because there is no place like home - after you roam. The roaming part is crucial to the homing part being just right. But right now it's been all about blending our lives and lifestyles. More on that later. For now I can say WE bicker. I tell her what to do. She tells me what she won't do - which I consider talking back. It's a lot just like this -
You don't need to watch TV first thing in the morning.
Don't tell me what I need. I'm 80 something years old. I think I know what I need.
Well, I don't think it's good for you. I think you should read a newspaper in the morning because you learn something and it's quiet.
I want the news that happened last night. By the time the paper gets here it's old news.
(She's from a generation that barely had cars and got their news from a neighbor. It's her Iphone that's poisoned her to think this way?)
Look, Mom - if anything really major happens there will be sirens going off or guns firing or something. Just read the paper. You don't need the noise of the TV in the morning.
I know what I need.
OK, let me rephrase that - I don't need to hear the noise of you watching the tv in the morning.
Now, that's an honest statement. And that, I can understand that.
That was all the honesty we could take that early neither of us being the kind of morning people that like to talk to other people in the house so we just shut up and read the paper and drank coffee and watched the birds. Then she wanted to play music and I wanted it to be quiet for an hour while I wrote. So I wrote a little and thanked her for all that understanding and then we played loud music. She asked me if I wanted to hear Creedence Clearwater Revival and I said, Yes, and we cleaned things.
The reward for all our hard work was that we were going to use that fabulous extra hour of daylight to take the dogs for a car ride through the country. We finally had the car loaded up right after sunset, a slight glow of pink in the hovering clouds. By the time we were winding our way though the dark with me determined to show her Bells Bend there was nothing but scraggly trees in the shadows. The timing too late after sunset to see anything. The bare winter trees scraggly points blowing in the wind, rattling against the dark, catching headlights, shaking them off, catching light again.
It's spooky down here. Don't go this way.
No, really Mom. It's nice, It's nice here.
Well, I can't see anything. Let's go back.
We were going to go for a ride and we are going for a ride.
I don't want to ride. I want to go home.
You complain about being stuck in the house so we are going on a ride. 'm gonna show you the park.
You need to Slow down.
I'm going ten miles under the speed limit.
Are there deer out here?
(A few years ago I hit three deer at once, killed all of them and survived. She is using this knowledge in a sneaky way.)
Yes. There are deer everywhere.
So, slow down.
There are nice places here, and a new restaurant down here.
Who would want to build a restaurant way out here and who in the world would want to drive out here to eat? It's spooky.
It's not spooky during the day.
Well right now it's night and its spooky and I want to go back.
I am not speeding but I still pass the entrance before I can swing in.
There it was, that was the entrance to the park. We just passed it.
Thanks for pointing that out to me.
Sorry, I couldn't see it coming up.
Cause it's dark. Nobody can see anything out here.
Okay, we are turning around and then I'm driving in there for just a minute..
The sign posted says park closed at sundown. Only campers are allowed to stay. (She infurates me when she reads the rules. Always has.) We don't belong down here.
I'm just showing you. Look, see? There's a path? A real path where you can walk that stupid dog. (He's not really stupid but he's little and a bother. My 200 pound dog however is no trouble at all.)
Well, that is nice. It looks like a nice path. Now, let's go.
I didn't even know they had camping here. I'd like to come back here to camp.
You would? Really? You like sleeping with sticks poking you in the back and mosquitos and bugs biting you all night.
The woman can douse the smallest dream before it ignites.
No. I like sitting around a campfire and looking at the stars and climbing into a tent really sleepy and snuggling into my sleeping bag.
If you say so. Are we going home now?
Yes, Mama. We are sure enough going home. Straight home.
I turned the car around the path, drove back towards the entrance and we encountered a vision. A low slung yellow moon. So big you would have sworn it was the biggest moon you ever saw. It was a word stopping, awe inspiring moon.
Would you just look at that? I think that's the biggest moon I ever saw.
Me and Mama sat there in the basking in that glow. For that moment life was threaded in perfect balance - us tethered to the moon in the dark. And for once instead of being late for something we were exactly, precisely right on time.
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