When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time in our backyard. I'd be out there for hours practicing as much of my bars routine as I could on the swing set. I'd play with our dog Brittney or with one of the cats. Before Dad put the fence up, I'd wander around the corn field behind our property, watching morning glories to see if I could spot them opening or closing. (The farmer who owned the field did not like my wanderings, and I was afraid of him, but I liked that cool, dirty, peaceful wandering too much to let fear stop me.) Or I'd move my favorite chair (a rocking lawn chair with bright green floral canvas upholstery) into my favorite spot on our shady patio, the west corner by the peach tree, and read all afternoon.
Sometimes Becky would come outside with me, but in my clearest memories, I am alone—except I can hear the kids who live on the other side of the field. I was happy in my little backyard paradise, but I was also lonely. It's strange: I talked to Kendell just this weekend, when we went out to dinner, about that lonely kid, and how I can't really say she's just who I used to be since I feel like she's still here; then I found myself thinking about her again this Easter Sunday, when we sat on the patio together, eating dinner.
By "we" I mean a lot of people: my kids and husband, my sisters, my mom, my brothers-in-law, two of my nieces and one of their husbands. The little kids were playing in the grass, laughing and chasing and pushing the babies on the swing. While we ate dinner, I made sure to sit in my favorite spot on the patio, which I still love even though the peach tree and the chaise are gone. I especially love it on spring afternoons and evenings, when the sun hits the back of your head so you are both in shade and sunlight at the same time. It has long been a place of solace for me, that spot in the backyard. Perhaps even a holy place, sometimes.
I ate last because I was avoiding the first rush at the food, and then I took some photos of Haley with her boyfriend Adam who came to the party but had to leave early. When I came back to my food, all the grown ups and the teenagers had gathered around the table, and as I ate we started talking. Random stuff at first, and then something hard my sister is experiencing, and then, somehow, to our teenage exploits. As we talked and laughed, I found myself sitting back. Not talking, almost not listening to the stories. Just settling myself; just letting that specific moment sink into my bones so I could keep it, somehow, forever. Between my sister and my daughter. All of us laughing. Sharing sorrow and wisdom.
I always love my family. But in that hour of talking, laughing, crying a little, eating a bit, I loved them so much. Enough that I didn't mind my old ghosts being brought up (Yes, I did sluff an entire semester of high school my junior year), which sometimes bothers me. I loved them and I wanted to keep that feeling. I thought of my dad, who one day—perhaps a spring afternoon like this one, lovely and warm with just a slight breeze to keep the edge off, and the mountains still snowy and the grass turning green—stopped pruning the honey locust in the backyard and left his saw in the crotch; it's still there, every year swallowed a little bit more by living tree. I thought about last year and how I thought it would be the last year we did this, and how I am glad we had one more, just so we could have that moment. I thought about our strangeness and our wrong choices and the paths we've taken. I thought about all the things I hoped for myself and the things I still hope my children obtain.
I thought about that lonely girl I used to be.
I cannot say the loneliness is cured. But in that moment—it was gone. I held the memory of my childhood self in the cup of my mind and wished I could tell her, somehow: not always. There will be people you can't imagine yet who will love you.
There were Easter eggs this year, colored by my kids who were all, even Kaleb, slightly disinterested. There was a lovely service at church. I made my favorite cake; we had Easter baskets and chocolate and even Peeps. The kids hunted for eggs. But that time on the patio: that was Easter to me, the best Easter thing, better even than my favorite caramel-filled chocolate eggs. The sense of time folding which can happen in the places we felt something intensely, as if the emotion left an echo you can still feel years later. That old loneliness whispered to me, but I could whisper back to it something more comforting.