Tuesday, May 20, 2014


She sat with me, resting in the silent wake of chaos that had been our week. Her semester was over, summer break had begun, and she was…visiting.

I wanted to think she was home. But she’d arrived with only her dirty laundry and a dress to wear to her boyfriend’s college graduation. All of the boxes and laundry hampers full of stuff that usually arrived with her were sitting in a new apartment six hours away.

It was Mother’s Day.

We had planted new flowers and shrubs in the front yard and were enjoying the fruits of our labor from the freshly swept porch. A southern breeze enticed low, melodious notes from the new wind chime hanging above our heads. The front pasture was spread out before us, green from recent rains and mild temperatures, a refreshing sight during the current drought. She was lost in thought, staring at the pasture with a half-smile on her lips. I followed her gaze to see what she saw.

Ah. It was the ghosts again.

A small blond girl skipped through the pasture, both hands clutching wildflowers. She wore jeans and a striped shirt—I only like plain clothes, Mama—and a little boy followed behind. He paused to pick a flower and stuck it behind his ear. Then he continued along the cow trail, walking carefully with both arms out to his sides. He didn’t want the flower to fall.

Watch out for rattlesnakes! Don’t step in fire ants! These were warnings I wanted to yell. The ghostly apparitions always bring a tightening in my chest, a need to protect them, hold onto them, keep them from fading away…

The little girl stopped to admonish the boy. He had frightened off a rabbit. Or maybe it was the cry of the baby, or the screeches of their younger brother. He offered her a flower, and they continued on their way.

There was so much to do. Would they head for the rope swings in the big tree? Maybe they would climb the tree and make heart-stopping jumps with the swings between their legs—flying, flying like the hawks that hunt in the fields. Or would they head to one of the ponds in search of frogs and tadpoles? Maybe they’d go to their secret hideout in the cattle pens—the one they thought I didn’t know about. They skipped away, trailing giggles behind them.

A lump formed in my throat. I looked at the young woman at my side, so strong and beautiful and self-assured. There were hardly any traces of the little blond girl. I had a question to ask. I thought I knew the answer, but I wasn’t entirely sure. Because sometimes when I see the ghosts of the children, I also see the ghost of woman, and she’s tired and frustrated and low on patience. She thinks she will always be exhausted, that they will always be needy and noisy and that nobody in the house will ever sleep through the night. Stupid woman! They aren’t even the same as they were a minute ago. Can’t she see time rushing past her? Literally washing over her and taking their precious little voices and tiny hands with it?

My voice strained as I finally asked, “Was it a good childhood here? I mean, was itmostly good?”

She looked at me and smiled. “I was just thinking that it was,” she said.

With one last glance at the pasture, she stood to go inside and gather her laundry. It was time to head home.