My son began his two-year stint as a Purple-Dragonner (which many in KC know is a child who attends Purple Dragon Preschool) in the summer of 1994, when he was barely three and Chris Taggart approached his fourth birthday. The two became inseparable and remain friends twenty years later, despite never attending school together again after each left to start kindergarten in the fall of 1996. Chris’ mother, Katrina, became my best friend — and one without whom I might never have successfully navigated Patrick’s childhood.
For twenty years, the Taggarts and the various members of my family, principally Patrick and me, have spent time together. For the first decade, the years before high school, Patrick and Chris spent weekends together. It didn’t matter which home hosted them — each had specific appeals. Our home had a beach backyard one year, a pool for a couple of years, a mountain of dirt one year. Katrina made chipped beef on toast and gave the boys as much personal freedom as they could manage, teaching them to be fiercely independent by her example, voiced in her quiet way. With the Taggarts, Patrick went blueberry picking; with me, Chris and he had Park Saturdays, when we tried to see as many parks in one day as possible.
Easter at the Taggarts’ house; Thanksgiving at mine. Alternating trips to each other’s home for Christmas celebrations, usually the Sunday after December 25th. Katrina took my son shopping for presents for his mother during the years when no other adult lived here and young Patrick wanted to surprise me. I took her daughters for their first fancy lingerie purchase and Chris for his first ear-piercing. I listed her on the emergency forms for Patrick during most of his elementary school years. Chris went west on one of our car trips, exploring Yellowstone and Cody with Patrick, Dennis and me. The boys rented bikes to tour a mountain while Dennis and I rode a ski-lift to the top. Most of the photographs from Patrick’s childhood have one or more Taggarts in them.
Yesterday, Katrina stopped by the Holmes house after she finished her Meals on Wheels duties at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. She came to fetch me for Sunday dinner, since my eyes won’t allow me to drive after dusk. A few hours later, I sat at the Taggart table, with Katrina in her customary place at one end, opposite her husband Ross. At the table, too, were Chris and his girlfriend Sam, visiting from Alabama, speaking in her soft lilting southern voice. In my honor, they had made salmon, fresh sugar snap peas, and rice — gluten-free, no white sugar, fish instead of chicken, pork or beef, in accordance with my current diet.
At the close of the pleasant afternoon, on the way home, I felt a sense of peace that has eluded me for many months. That feeling might well wax and wane, but I luxuriated in its warmth last evening. The dinner table at which my son and I have spent so many wonderful meals still sits in the same spot where it has been for most of his life, since the Taggarts’ move to Johnson County from midtown where they had lived when we first met. Ross made a joke about making no jokes at the table, gently teasing both me and himself in memory of an incident over 11 years ago before he attained sobriety (congratulations, Ross, on attaining 11 years!). Though children have left that table, they often return with children of their own, with partners, with stories of towns where they now live and lives they could not be living without the roots that were cultivated around the Taggart table, and over in Missouri, here at the Corley table.
Much has changed. But much remains the same. And from both that which remains the same, and that which has changed, the future springs.