I suppose I’ll go ahead and write about the fire that is in front of me; standing so close that my clothes nearly ignite. They are the only protection I have – hope bricked by these flimsy, combustible threads.
Yes, again, I am facing grief.
It snuck up on me; lit when reaching for my journal and the sunflower-print stationery from Trudy’s house fell into my lap. My fingers lingered a bit too long on the browned and aging pages with these sunny images, reminding me of the hope Trudy clung to with faith in God and people.
The tighter my hold on the paper, the older the memories are as they fly back and settle on October 2008. Going with Trudy to her weekly painting class; smelling the paints and turpentine while dabbling in my own. She is sitting across the room from me with just enough distance between us that I can watch, with some semblance of sibling detachment, Trudy. Trudy with her friends and lost in the lure of curious imagination while all the while crouching beneath the unforgiving thumb of perfectionism. Art supersedes the weight of it all.
The conversations, fading in and out and between the brushstrokes, include the recipes of bundt cakes and casseroles, town and church gossip; gritty opinions of the upcoming presidential election leading to talk of the very real, and very scary KKK-activities across the Illinois/Indiana border just six miles from here. I listen as the rhythm slips once again into hushed silences where the sudden sounds of a scraping chair, metal legs against cracked and yellowed linoleum, remind me we are gathered in this falling down shack donated to the ladies that paint.
Sitting on my couch here, I find the stationery now pressed against my breast like a childhood teddy bear; squeezing out memories of all of the places I would be with Trudy as her little sister. The certainty and security of going with her to her classroom and helping her staple construction-paper bunnies and colorful spring flowers to her bulletin boards, joining her at teacher functions and luncheons; going further back to 4-H fairs, church pews and the creaky bed we shared in “the little house”. My eyelashes are nearly singed by the combustion of histories remembered.
I dare to look over to the picture I keep near my morning-time couch. It’s the one that she would most hate because it is a close-up, nearly all face. “Too close”, she would protest, “too fat”. But I love it most as it captures Trudy’s patience, passions, forever and always everywhere teacher that she was. It was taken in her classroom of third graders – the very place where she owned who she was without apology.
“Come closer”, I hear. “Come closer Tres.”
Really? You would say that to me, knowing the verge of my heart?
It drives me to write, because that is what I do. And I start again, apologetically; unleashing this pen of pain – missing Trudy.
I write and as I come nearer to the end I notice my face is cooling; noticing too that the decision to draw nearer the fire or walk away has been lifted from me in the call to come closer, and to writing. I look again, and see neither the burning ember of precious memories as extinguished, nor the start of a wildfire of emotions. And somehow, magically, what in fragile moments threatened to carry me towards grave sadness brings the easy joy of remembering what it felt like to be your sister.
Proud. Happy. Safe. Secure. Identity. Home.
The sunshine of these strike my tears with the light-part of being sisters.