There is a room, the dream of where I begin to write about autumn. It is covered in a burgundy-rose wash and quiet among the chilly evening in September, October, or November. Walls bleed memories of book fairs in elementary school, reading in bed after holiday dinners, imagining great battles under a makeshift fortress, discovering beautiful rhyme, playing Silkworm on the NES after homework, listening to musical jazz genius, and traipsing about in the backyard. My deceased dog Snoppy is magically alive again, nipping at his tail and then stuffing himself into blankets in the kennel. Some delicious casserole looms from the oven.
Until I weave my own family memories, I depend on these tremendously. They start each fall season with a mesmerizing sparkle, more cheerful versions of a pensieve or a dark ode to poetry and death. A strange glow surrounds them, because they are slightly dangerous. These memories have navigated loss. Because of humanity’s broken love, I let them hide me from myself. I present this tiny delve into the past, hoping that it unlocks a secret heart and lets all know the joy and beauty there is in family…
THE BROKEN SILENCES
She calls out to the wind, because I’m too busy drawing in the grass with anxious fingers. When I raise my hands and breathe deeply, wet earth and vegetation smack me in the face. The symbol I’ve made on the ground makes no sense, so it’s crushed with a sneaker and I instead draw the face of a character from Sailor Moon. Risa is perplexed.
“Would you like some paper, dear?”
“No, it’s only Diana. She doesn’t appear until the third season, anyway. As the daughter of Artemis and Luna, her eyes should be larger and her face smaller, like…”
“Do you want the acorn or not?”
I never have to wonder with Risa. She places the acorn into my pocket, after I fake a grimace and nod quickly.
We’re collecting acorns and a few beautiful leaves for a collage. The sky is tattered with violet and red light, watching the soft green change to emerald. Cool, heavy silence permeates the yard like a tidal wave. Smelling dirt, falling leaves, and distant smoke, we feel mysteriously liberated and ready for the next conquest.
“Hey girls, come inside for a minute.” Mom pops gently out of the sliding glass doors above us. She sounds and looks weary.
On the day of Grandma Annie’s funeral I thieved a look at my father, sporting her Cherokee nose and practical forehead lines. He was brushing jelly on toast that he wasn’t going to eat. The youngest son in the family, he was a fighter in both size and intellect. Perhaps our heart-to-heart conversations were low in number and uncomfortable, but we respected each other and I enjoyed the hard work he gave to support his family.
He looked back for a moment, eyes unclear and searching.
“Did you eat?” It was a low, gutteral question posed in one attempt at normalcy. Barely audible, subdued, and awkward. My heart clinched further in pain, as I regarded the slouch of his loss.
“Uh-huh.” Suddenly the napkins in front my plate were captivating, snowy little objects of artistic experimentation. I manuvered them into various patterns, tracing the rough material in triangles and hearts. I didn’t cry to show my father I was strong for him, and I refused to do it now.
Dad took the chair without his toast, facing the living room instead of the table’s floral centerpiece or me. Stodgy moments passed, and I took in the patio window to see if time had stopped out there.
They came loudly and broken. It was as if coughs were exploding together, sending a hurricane of sorrow through his throat. After the initial noise, sheer vulnerability projected from his mouth to my ears. I was terrified, hearing such imperfect emotion from my strong, fearless, perfect father. My eyes balloned, fixated on the berry-colored shimmer of the vase. But something had to be offered.
I cast my stare at Dad, allowed it to fall in sympathy to the ground, and pressed my hand on his suited knee.
We remained there: a crying father and a comforted daughter, thrown together in heartache, love, and released tears.