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At the End of the Rain Today

November 17, 2015
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Rinsing the last of the lunch dishes, I catch a scent from my childhood. It has rained all morning, soaking the Tanzanian earth and there, lingering in the moisture, the smell of a California summer. An old house in Portola Valley, a stone pool, a rock diving board at the edge of blue-ink water. Endless games of 1-alligator, 2-alligator, 3-alligator, who can stay under the longest? Jumping from hot tub to icy depths, canon-balls and pencil dives. A small white dog named Mitzie–and me, telling a joke, something about Mitzie and a hot dog, making my brothers laugh, the greatest accomplishment of my five years.

And dancing at the edges of consciousness, a beautiful woman with a head of white hair, slender noble hands, impeccable clothes and nails. A smiling man, skin marked with sun and age, belly round and full.

I almost turn away–pull the plug, shake my hands of bubbles and water, reach for the blue towel hanging by my window–and let it all slip back into the murky recess of memory deep. But it’s not everyday I am visited by my grandparents, not everyday they spin in the raindrops falling outside my window. And so I stand a moment longer, close my eyes, inhale.

I turn from the window, and write it all down. I no longer can be certain, once I open my eyes, if I am remembering or imagining, recalling or fabricating. If I see their faces staring at me from an old photograph, or if my fingers are creating them in black and white type. Or if I really see them: as they were. As they are, somewhere in the hollows of history. Of family, and of legacy.

I cannot help but think of how we become who we are. The names we are given at birth. The head of hair and the blue eyes, the long legs and sharp wide shoulders I have passed on to my own wee girl. The family who raised me, the family I am raising myself. The things I’ve done, and the things I’ve left undone. The lessons being learned, and learned again. Every smell and sight, taste and touch, buried within the routine of ordinary days.

This is not earth-moving. This is just the scent of a California summer, carried to me, at the end of the rain today.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Jane Tight permalink
    November 17, 2015 5:58 pm

    I see and know that place.

    • November 17, 2015 7:48 pm

      I know. Is it possible to be homesick for 6 years old?

  2. Kelly Holderman permalink
    November 17, 2015 7:23 pm

    As usual, Joanna, you make me wistful. You have a gift to write like this. I’m glad you’re finding time. Best to you and all.

    • November 17, 2015 7:49 pm

      Thanks, Kelly. Trying to remember what is good for me. 😊

  3. sandy permalink
    November 17, 2015 11:17 pm

    Thank you for a lovely journey the day after Rick’s birthday. Maybe he was hanging out there with his Mom and Dad. Love you and your beautiful sensitivity Joanna!

    • November 19, 2015 7:58 am

      My memories need an in-person refresher Aunt Sandy.

  4. Lindsey permalink
    November 18, 2015 10:57 pm

    Your words perfectly evoked the silver-haired woman,the smiling, singing man and this place in my memory’s eye. Touching and lovely.

  5. Jeff Judy permalink
    November 22, 2015 7:21 pm

    Very thoughtful entry. I do think you may have been fabricating the part where your brothers thought your joke was funny. Love you Sis.

  6. December 17, 2015 3:45 pm

    Really a lovely piece! Keep writing!

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