I’ve been home for sixteen days and nothing is settled.
I wrote a lot of copy last week. I think I have a gig teaching. I wasn’t expecting to have so much work only a week after getting here. I am very grateful for that. The falcon is in his chamber. He complains at the dog, “chee-ups” at me, already content. A pair of my pigeons are on eggs. The wisteria I wincingly loosed from the pots on my porch in Sacramento were transplanted in my yard in Banning, their spring leaves already unfurling. This sense of “right” is almost overwhelming. Home, I think. And I remember why I bought this house 7 years ago. I heard it say my name, dreamily, but not unlike the California quail I hear on my morning walks, “re-BEC-ca. re-BEC-ca.”
All the same, most of my things are in a container on the street, my office isn’t ready for me yet and my mom and I still haven’t quite sorted our things into a sharable space. Tasks are queued and have to fall like dominos or not at all. It’s hard to be patient during the frantic desire of Spring. I told myself on my birthday, on Imbolc, that this would be the year of less yearning, more doing, but I yearn.
And I feel like I should be writing. Really writing. But I’m not yet.
I keep thinking of Annie Dillard chopping wood. I have been in the yard, shifting contents, tearing out the guts of my carriage house, shoring up the walls, pruning trees, my muscles screaming louder than any questions about my choices. And somewhere behind all that my subconscious is sorting and this I guess is writing too. Writing needs space… and sometimes aching muscles.
In this haze of sharp mind dulled by over-tired limbs, I nursed a beer last night on the couch next to my mom and asked her about the car accident when she was a teenager. I had heard this story many times, but there are things you do not wonder about when you are young. Now I wondered what this did to my mom, her own mother long lost to wherever the dead are taken and my mom making a swift knock on the same door.
She was a sophomore in high school in the passenger seat of a Datsun and she went through the windshield in the crash. No one wore seat belts then. There was no safety glass. She remembers seeing the car they hit and then nothing until the emergency room, but she lost teeth, fractured her skull, fractured her pelvic bone and the wrist of the hand she brought up to instinctively cover her eyes. And when she runs her fingers over the scars I’ve never noticed on her face, we ponder that surely she lay in the street with her face flayed open. It took 88 stitches to sew her face back together.
My mom was in intensive care for eight days, but back to school in three weeks. She had to have follow-up plastic surgery and really wasn’t supposed to walk for three months. Yet the girl in the back seat of the Datsun, the girl with barely bumps and bruises, didn’t go back to school for the rest of the year. My mom and I sipped our drinks on the couch and wondered if the sight of her, pretty, petite, sixteen and now disfigured on the road was more than the girl in the backseat could manage.
It seems to me that sixteen is far too young to lose time, to have your face changed by fate, to go through the windshield. And my mother had already lost my grandmother, Barbara Jean to suicide (or perhaps something more sinister) when she was much younger. She has always told me that she thought it was a good thing that the pretty sister, that my aunt Dorothy hadn’t been in the accident –as if fate had been kind. And the way she says this, I think that her father, her step-mother, her sisters, that they all must have felt that same way. They must have called her “lucky” when a mother would have pulled her close and begged her to never knock on such wicked door again.
This makes me so angry at Barbara Jean. This makes me think about how dark and long the void a dead mother can leave behind. This makes me ache because somehow life wasn’t precious in my family and loss was a given. I want to ask Barbara Jean, “Why,” but I can only hear her answer in my head and there is a lot more wood to chop, stories to hear, words to mull before I take comfort in anything I channel her saying. And this makes me glad I came home, that my mom and I decided to share space for a while until the details feel a little less like flotsam, until we decipher the legacy of Barbara Jean.
I am trying to be patient. I am trying to write. I am hugging my mom because it scares me that she went through the windshield and because this means so much more than I realized. And I am so very glad to be home.