July 9, 2013
A blend of truth and fiction in three parts
Part One is here.
I was in the back seat with a big smile on my face, watching the familiar buildings go by. We passed the Dairy Queen and Rawley’s up on The Post Road, then took the left turn in between the gas stations. We drove past the church, and then, the beautiful houses: mostly Colonials and Cape Cods, but I imagined a couple of the old Saltboxes in there, too.
I did not know who was driving. I’m used to that; I don’t even ask anymore.
I love these dreams.
The windows would not roll down. It bothered me because I wanted to smell… something. I didn’t know what in the dream, but my guess would be Long Island Sound. I had stopped watching the road while I tried to open the window. Did we pass the 4-way stop yet? There’s only the one stop, and it marks the halfway point to the beach. Just as I thought of it, we came to the stop sign at Oldfield Road.
“Grandma’s house is just three blocks down, on the right,” I said to the driver’s back. I called out the little roads’ names as we went: “Rita Avenue… Bonney Terrace… South Street!” The car stopped, backed up a bit, and pulled into my grandmother’s driveway. I stepped out onto the pavement and ran my hand over the tiger lilies that lined the drive, making my way to the utility room door. I looked down, beneath the mailbox, and saw the Borden’s milk container. I used to think this was made out of silver.
I took a deep breath, and I could smell everything at once: The Lilies of the Valley, the Lilacs that grew at the edge of the garden to the right. The swamp somewhere behind me. The beach down the road.
I put my hand on the doorknob, but changed my mind. I went left, toward the front walkway, where the snowballs were just starting to bud. I avoid the snowballs in these dreams, just like I always did in my childhood; the bees were always there.
The picture window was there, nine little panes (before it was switched out with a more modern sliding glass model). Tulips and daffodils reached up toward the glass like any spring day since I’ve been alive. I stood on the row of bricks that sheltered the flowers from the rest of the yard so that I could lean forward, forehead to the glass, without killing any of them. Avoiding Grandma’s wrath.
In the parlour, there was music. Food. People, laughing and dancing.
It was blurry at first, but as it came into focus, I realized: These were not just any people. Folks I love. People I have lost, alive, and happy.
The first person that became clear to me was my Uncle Kid. He was in the corner, near the smaller window (they must have moved the television set to another room), playing his violin.
My father sat near him, smoking a cigarette and talking to Aunt Bertha. Daddy! I waved, just like every other time I dream; Daddy never sees me. I still wave, anyway. Just in case.
Grandma walked through with a tray of porhanos in one hand and a coffee pot in the other. I waved to her, but she didn’t notice me, either. I would love some porhanos, Grandma.
Uncle Andy and Cousin Steve sat in two dining room chairs, set against the wall on the right. Steve was drawing something quickly on his pad; Andy was setting up his easel to paint. Steve stopped as Grandma approached. He rose, grabbed her hands (the tray and the coffee pot disappeared) and danced her in a circle, both of them laughing. Is Grandma blushing? I giggled to myself.
I saw Mom enter the parlour from the back hall and I gasped. She is beautiful. Her dark brown hair (If you say “black” she will get all upset) was up in a ponytail. She wore pedal pushers and an oversized shirt, probably borrowed from her father, who walked behind her. I don’t know how I could know (it was something in her smile), but I did know that she had been horseback riding.
My mother saw me. She kissed Grandpa on the cheek, then walked up to the picture window and gently tapped one of the glass squares.
Hearing her voice made my throat tighten. None of the people in these picture window dreams ever notice me. I can’t even get them to wave, but Mom is talking to me.
I touched the glass where her fingers remained. “Hi, Mom.”
She smiled. “This is a grown-up party. You stay outside and play.”
I wanted to stay. I wanted to come in. I wanted to hug her, tell her things, ask her things… and I wanted to see everyone else, too.
She became a little stern: “Vanessa. I said, stay outside and play. Now, go!”
“Okay,” I whispered. I began to turn away but stopped. “Are you sure?” I asked.
Mom nodded. “You go play, now. I’ll save you some porhanos.”
I tried again: “Or I could just come in and eat some now…”
She crossed her arms over her chest. She means business. “No. You can’t. Not now.”
“When?” I felt tears roll over my cheeks, but I didn’t really feel like I was crying.
My mother touched the glass again. “Someday. Don’t worry about it. You go on, have fun.”
I came back and touched the pane where her fingers were. “I love you,” I croaked.
She wiggled her fingers and they came through the glass to touch mine. “You’re the best daughter I ever had,” she said.
We both giggled at the old joke (I am her only daughter). My feet began to wobble on the bricks. I looked down at them. The bricks were gone.
I looked up, and the parlour was empty. No people. No furniture. Different window.
I took a step back. I was standing on Grandma’s old property, where the ugly duplex now stands.
It was nothing.
They made it into something.
Now, it is nothing again.
I woke up with the thought: I am trespassing here.