My neighbor tells me that she, too, has a trip to her home state planned. Idly I ask, Where was home? Her answer surprises me: Harrison, Arkansas, she says, smiling, and suddenly I recall my three years of life on yet another river, the Buffalo.
Later, I scroll through my phone, looking for an image that I want to send someone. A series of three quick shots of a heron that I took this afternoon catches my attention. He seems to be posing. I strain to see which way he’s looking, but a shadow fell across his face. I took it just around the corner from my friend Tim’s pig farm. A moment later, I saw Tim cutting the thick growth on his side of the levee. I stopped to wave, tapping my horn just enough to cause him to lift his head.
The warmth of the afternoon folded itself around me as I moved through the rest of the day. I tried to focus on packing, on plans, on deciding which jacket to take on the plane. But my neighbor’s remarks returned to me, bringing a wave of memory. In Arkansas my first marriage had started and ended. I met my son’s father. I lost my son’s twin; I gave birth to the surviving child in a cold surgical delivery room with my friend Laura behind me, holding my hands.
South of Fayetteville, I waded through chilly mountain run-off in springtime and walked along flat flagstones in summer. I stoked the fire in a wood stove as autumn’s chill yielded to winter’s cold kiss. I came to Arkansas as a bride and left its venerable mountains as a thirty-seven-year-old first-time mother. With my toddler strapped in a car seat and everything I owned crammed into a friend’s truck, we caravanned northward, in a May much like this one, three decades ago.
In a handful of hours, I will fly back home. My son is coming from Chicago to meet me. I have no idea if he realizes that Sunday is Mother’s Day, and I could not care less. It’s enough that he has decided to make the drive to St. Louis. I won’t even mention it. We’ll make dinner together, and perhaps share conversation. In the morning, before he leaves, we’ll have coffee on the patio at the AirBnb. I’ll hug him, and send him on his way.
At some point during my three days in St. Louis, I might even visit my own mother’s grave. I will sink to my knees, pull the grass away, and study her name. I will run my finger over the carving on my brother’s headstone. I will trace the letters on Corinne Hahn Hayes’ resting place, wondering if I am at all like the great-grandmother after whom I am named. I will stand and study the graves of my people. And they will say nothing, nothing at all, but somehow, it will be enough.
It’s the twelfth day of the one-hundred and thirteenth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
The spring is fresh and fearless
And every leaf is new,
The world is brimmed with moonlight,
The lilac brimmed with dew.
Here in the moving shadows
I catch my breath and sing–
My heart is fresh and fearless
And over-brimmed with spring.
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