On the Wednesday after Thanksgiving, I flew to Edmond, Oklahoma, to visit my DNA…and my sister, Keun, with whom I have no DNA in common. During my visit I attempted, unsuccessfully, to compose a blog post, with photographs, using only my phone and a bluetooth keyboard. Here’s what I failed to dispatch on that warm December afternoon, sitting outdoors in shirtsleeves in a park that is, right now, glazed over with ice:
I moved from Oklahoma City, to Fredericksburg, Virginia, twenty-two years ago, and I don’t recall ever feeling homesick. But whenever I do come back, I’m washed in fresh appreciation for horizons and sunset, moonrise, cloudscapes and open fields. Wind here is pretty much a constant. And for this visit, when the temperature has made December feel like early summer, the wind has been sweet. I would definitely cut my hair short again if I lived here, though. I do remember the meaning of the term “wind chill.” I remember how it stings and chafes whenever the temperature drops. And in August, when you’re in the middle of weeks in the 100′s, and it cools down to 95 at night, and the wind doesn’t let up…ever…I totally understand how and why so many homesteaders just flipped out. A person can tolerate only so much wind battering. This trip, though, I’m calling them breezes, and I have found them to be companionable.
It’s the second day of my visit. It’s been a full day of car rides and remembering. Mom likes to visit the little town where she was born — Agra. It’s between Chandler and Cushing, about an hour northeast of Edmond. She doesn’t drive anymore, so she has to wait for someone with a drivers license and a chunk of free time to take her. She showed me the house where her piano teacher lived, the roadside where her sister’s fiance was killed in a car accident, the school she attended from first through third grade. (I saw a banner wired to the chain-link fence: They’re hiring.) She had me take her to Osage Cemetery, where her grandmother is buried. Lillie Maud Long died when Mom’s dad, my Grandpa Herman, was three years old. Beside the stone pillar with “Lillie M. Long” carved into it, there’s a tiny granite headstone for the infant daughter whose birth was the occasion for two deaths. It’s right here, on the other side of Lillie Maude Long, where Mom has made plans to be buried. Mom’s a writer. She knows the importance of bringing stories full circle.
She has a pine box on order from a Trappist monastery in Kentucky. “Now as soon as I’m gone, you girls call the monastery and they’ll Fed-Ex it to the funeral home. They’re the nicest people. I just love them.”
She gave me a heads up: “I paid for it all in advance. Paid in full. Don’t let that funeral director tell you otherwise.”
After our excursion, I dropped my mother off at her apartment — she was ready for a nap and I was ready for some solitude and space to let my eyes fill up and overflow. I drove over here to Fink Park, which is the setting of the first vignette in “High School on the Home Front,” the stories I tell about my mom’s experiences during that period in American history she and my dad always called “The War.” I’m sitting in the shade of a wall of red rock. I’m thinking about my mother as a 16-year-old. She’s 87 now. Four inches shorter than she was 71 years ago when she and her friends stood at the edge of this park, cheering and waving at a convoy of trucks carrying new recruits — cheering, excited, bright-eyed boys — off to war.
Military Convoy, US Highway 66, 1942 – my mom’s story about that spring day when she was 16 years old and everything was possible.
It’s been a good visit. Maybe the best visit we’ve had in my adult life. We’ve had some rocky ones, Mom and I, and this is turning out to be simple and serene.
Speaking of “serene…” Jack and I were talking last night and I told him how, when Mom and I came out of the movie theatre, the moon was rising — a thin orange arc just peeking over the horizon. She stopped. We stood still, there on the sidewalk in front of the theatre, not saying anything. And when the moon had cleared the horizon, she started walking again to the car. I told him, “My mother is a person who will stop what she’s doing in order to watch a moon rise.” And Jack’s response was, “That’s no small thing.”
Well, I’m home now, and here are some of the photographs I tried without success to move from my phone to the blogosphere.