Last week I was absolutely giddy from reclaiming the person inside, my inquisitive and forward-looking 14-year-old self. It was such a joy to see her again that I’ve invited her to stick around. Together, we’ve had an interesting week!
She’s definitely more “girly” than I am. She swings her hips slightly when she walks and prodded me to file my nails, rounding the corners and making a soft point at the tip. Though I cut them every couple of weeks, it’s been years (I kid you not) since I’ve shaped my fingernails. Too busy? Too indifferent? Years of keeping them short to play bass factors in there somewhere.
Did it disappoint her that I didn’t do much to celebrate Independence Day? The neighborhood I live in has two households, one a bit north of me and one a bit south, who must spend thousands on fireworks because they fire them off relentlessly and at great volume from about five PM until midnight. As such, I stayed home to soothe the poor, terrified dog and the cats (some terrified, some merely annoyed). The person inside didn’t complain about us being home bound, but she did persuade me to take my first-ever selfie to mark the day. That evening, we considered what we want to be when we grow up, also what we want to be today. I haven’t figured out the answers to those questions yet, but I did realize that I won’t always be defined primarily by grief. This feels like a huge step forward.
On July 5th she made me write a tiny poem:
I like to move gently through the day,
unrushed and able to smile at those who
push past to gain one extra mile.
This sedate moment in our shared life was welcome. For several days we’d been bouncing between a frantic, endless loop of excitement and the soft voice of inner peace. Calm between the storms; variety in simply being alive.
We slogged through our Saturday chores (mowing, watering, cleaning up after the dog), showered up and ventured downtown for a little shopping. She was nagging me about my wardrobe.
“Your ‘good’ 501s are faded, you need summer PJs and the elastic in all your underwear is shot. And as long as we’re out, can we please look for something summery and cute?”
We took care of the basics, then she insisted on ice cream for lunch. Bright’s Candies of Walla Walla (http://brightscandies.com/) served up a waffle cone (my choice) with one scoop of Happy Birthday ice cream (her choice, as she pointed out her recent re-birth). The first few bites- -vanilla, I think, with crystals and chunks of pastel-colored candies- -were delicious. As we progressed through the cone, however, what had first been refreshingly cool and creamy now tasted like a can of frosting. But she liked it, and since I hate to waste food. . . . Once the cone was finished we looked at summer clothes in 5 different boutiques but every single one of them erred heavily toward baggy linen dresses and tops that would hang on us like potato sacks: no additional purchases were made.
Sunday is house cleaning day. It was helpful to have her around, even though she didn’t do much. For the first time in a long time I didn’t have multiple maudlin mental brown-outs about how Bruce and I used to clean house together. It’s been hard to keep my momentum, working through the parts he did without stopping and sighing a lot. At last I felt like I was cleaning a house, not a tomb, and the realization startled me. Who knew that was going on underneath?
The person inside is enriching my life tremendously. I really appreciate her curiosity and her thirst for trying new things. She likes that I can drive. We took the Xterra out for its weekly run to keep the battery charged. Usually I tootle around for a few minutes and call it good, but once we made some miles down Reser Road, out to where the land is under cultivation, I realized how much I miss seeing the wheat grow. It’s been almost a year since Bruce and I sold our place in Prescott and I haven’t been out among the crops since. I almost had to pull over I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the wheat and pea fields, the Blue Mountains rising beyond. We eased onto Russell Creek Road, then over to Mill Creek Road where I suddenly decided to hunt down the site of the Whitman Mission Saw Mill. I mention the mill in my Living History presentation and developed a desire to find it after I heard there was an interpretive sign marking the site.
“Good!” she said, pleased that I’d come up with something new to try on my own.
As we progressed east, bright orange diamond-shaped signs appeared. Road Work. Detour Ahead. Be Prepared to Stop. If I’d been by myself I probably would have turned around, but not a chance with her in the car.
“You really want to see it, don’t you?” It was almost like a dare.
We slowed, we stopped, we started when the flagger’s sign turned to SLOW and descended a steep and narrow gravel-covered road that I wasn’t sure we could climb up again. Gradually the road leveled. We made it through several pairs of flaggers, over pavement both smooth and rough, to the far reaches of Mill Creek Road where I’d never ventured. Driving into an unfamiliar place tends to elongate time, which makes me uneasy and never fails to conjure scenes from the movie Deliverance. The only signage was for private roads with cutesy names. I started to wonder if we were still on Mill Creek Road. In the corner of my eye flicked a large wooden sign.
“There it is!”
It was me who said that! The moment carried a “Eureka” thrill. We found a place to turn around and pulled up to read the sign. The mill, located “near this site,” was built in 1844-45, the first of its kind between the Rockies and the Cascades. We’d done it! I would have given up if she hadn’t dared me.
Finding the saw mill was a small thing, but it’s made me wonder how much more fun life could be if I followed up on some small curiosities and dreams instead of losing these in numb service to the big ones?
Now that I’ve embraced the person inside, I’m pretty sure she’ll guide me toward the answer.
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