View from my walk …
For my entire life my grandparent’s house was a cozy, blue, wood-sided ranch nestled in a bed of pine tree needles, pachysandra and ivy, protected by the sentry pines that dropped their leaves in soft, velvety piles — fragrant enough to make you believe it was Christmas in the heat of July. I have many memories of that house: my aunts and uncles laughing around Grandma Rachel’s yellow dining room table, swimming at the neighborhood pool, learning how to make the perfect grilled cheese (making sure the butter crisped the edges) and eating made-to-order omeletes by my grandpa’s hand … reading books and sitting by fires, opening Christmas presents in their basement, watching the rainbows float from my grandma’s glass paper weight collection. And buckeyes, always there were buckeyes.
Today, I was walking with Luna–my two year old silver Lab–opting out of the gym and enjoying the last promises of 70 degrees and sunshine that only October offers. We walk along the road and through the field, often through the woods. We walked under a pine grove on the south side of our field and my feet slipped just a touch … I took a deep breath in. Pine. I reached down, ran my fingers through the silky needles, pulled the pile of needles to touch my nose. The scent was overwhelming. I felt heavy with grief — my grandma died five years ago and my grandpa nearly a decade before that. But that smell, those brown, spent pine needles whisked me away to a cozy, blue, wood-sided ranch with a fire roaring. I could hear my grandpa singing at the oven as he concocted his famous omelets — onions and mushrooms and cheese and ham … always ham. I felt the loss of them heavy in my chest, I cried, I sifted the needles through my fingers letting them fall silently to the soft ground. A legacy of life and love, joy and sadness, grief and pleasure, success and failure. I felt it all in the scent of those pine needles.
My life seems to be about endings these past months. Not the catastrophic endings that losing a loved one, or a job or a marriage does to you, but the bitter sweet endings of children growing older, life changing. The ending of the way things are, without a promise or a picture of what tomorrow may look like. Today, with the pine needles in my hands I wondered — not for the first time — what my legacy to my son’s would look like.
Will they be stopped in their tracks by the smell of a pine tree, so rich with memory that their body remembers what their mind may have forgotten? What would that smell be? That vision? That small trigger that could remind them of all that our live together as five is and was? I have those same connections with my momma (vanilla) and my daddy (wood fire) and if I smell Este Lauder Youth Dew I may ask to hug you, I will miss my Grandma Chris so deeply. I tease E that that someday the boys will smell peanuts and will immediately remember their daddy … he loves to shuck peanuts in the shell right after work, his “after school” snack to tide him over till dinner.
Smelling roasted peanuts drizzled with salt, hearing the crack of the shell and feeling the crunch of the nuts will have them smiling, closing their eyes and remembering fishing trips, playing catch in the yard, hunting in our woods, how their daddy always naps for an hour before he goes to bed, football games and baseball trips, how he was hard to please — but when you succeeded it felt like the sun was shining just for you, how he loved them in a way no one else–not even me–could. It will only take a tiny peanut for them to remember all their daddy was and is to them.
It’s so easy for me to see E’s legacy, I can feel the weight of it, like a rock in my hand. It’s right in front of me, a map on our road. I can’t see mine. I feel a flutter of panic when I wonder, what will they remember? Can they feel those memories the way I can when I walk under the canopy of a pine tree? Will it be the smell of the ocean when they dig their toes in the sand and look out at the biggness of the world? Or maybe the smell of pumpkin bread or homemade granola? I don’t know, I wonder … and I hope. I hope they feel me cuddle them as babies. I hope they can hear me sing them their own hand written lullabyes. I hope they know I kissed their door good night every night they slept in my care. I hope they feel my joy in counting rocks and finding acorns, catching turtles and salamanders and frogs. I hope they feel the mud squish between their toes from the afternoons we played in the rain. I hope they feel my pride, heavy like a rock in their hand, at the truth of the young men they are becoming.
I hope I have stoked enough fires, shucked enough peanuts, made enough omelets. I hope I planted enough pine trees.