Slow-Cooked Sentences

My heart, plucked

Rachael Conlin Levy

Three men arrived at my house Monday and packed 17,000 pounds of stuff. The zip of packing tape and the sounds of Duran Duran filled the air, while I ate brownies and drank lemonade in the shade.

Oh, the sweet life of a company man and his family.

Eight hours later, the men left, my desk was wrapped in plastic, the piano crated and 122 boxes all numbered and labeled. It’s funny, seeing my things reduced and defined to boxes. Written on one box are the words “Wicker Basket Water Marker,” and on another reads “Pillows, Light Reducer.” Light reducer? Light reducer? That stumped my family for a little while, and then we figured it meant a lamp shade.

As I countdown the days until we leave for Seattle, I’m realizing that the last time I did something — walk by the river, hike in the mountains, see a friend — was the final time and I didn’t know it or mark it as significant. To counter this, we went to the park one final time with friends. Toddlers hung out on the slides, bigger kids headed down to the pond to catch polliwogs while the adults visited around the barbecue. As the sun went down we all met in the sandlot for a game of kickball and then went back to the table for cake, thermoses of coffee and goodbye.

I hugged the husband of a best friend and the tears fell.

“Wait!” I complained. “I’m not supposed to be crying over you!”

I hold my friends for a little longer and really hug them, smell them, feel their soft bodies, aged from children yet strong enough to rebound for the backpacking trip in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that we planned for the summer and now won’t take. There’s no time to formally say goodbye to my mountains with their carpet of dry pine needles and the vanilla smell of Jeffrey pines.

As we drive home I try to burn onto my mind’s eye the sherbet sunset, melting pinks and oranges into the corners of my brain. Do they have sunsets in Seattle or does the sky just turn from downy gray to black?

The curve and color of the hills that bored me suddenly are so dear. After years, I’ve memorized their peaks and valleys, stared dully at them through the dry, brown winters and brightened when spring crayons them a pale sage green. I know where the scorpion waits, the hare hides, and can sing the song of the coyote, that trickster who came one night and nipped a bit of my soul and carried it away to its den.

Since I was 10, I’ve driven these streets, so familiar I forget who I am, how old I am, what I am. I am a child in the backseat, tired of a day of errands with my mother who has hauled me from grocery store, to fabric store, to laundromat. I am a mother, tired of a day of errands with my children whom I’ve dragged to grocery store, to library, to yarn shop.

Home is empty but for the echoes. My youngest son runs in big circles, bounces off bare walls and giggles. The air smells of secrets, of lovemaking and a baby born, of children growing, growing, growing. There are more secrets buried in the garden, nourishing the roots of the lilac and the crab apple. Love decays, providing food for the blossoms that tempt my children who bury their noses in the petals and whose fingers find the strawberries, barely red but still, they insist, so sweet.

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4 responses to “My heart, plucked”

  1. Andrea says:

    Oh how sweet and sad! I'm feeling weepy. Good luck with the move.

  2. Well, Rachael, you should be driving off about now….Have a safe trip! See you again soon!! 🙂

  3. Heather G says:

    Sniff, sniff. I love you.

  4. Louzilla says:

    Maybe you weren't supposed to cry over me, but I was supposed to cry over you. We miss you guys!

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