May 25, 2010


Time is going very fast now. Why does that happen? With a finish line in sight the days slip by, paper calendar pages. I haven't had much to say. No, I have. But I don't much like talking anymore. I visited my mother's side of the family in Pennsylvania over the weekend, and stayed with my Uncle Billy and his family at the house my mother's parents lived in for my entire childhood. The basement smells just the same. I talked nervously, self-consciously. I had a very nice time. It is strange to see your mannerisms crop up where you didn't expect to see them. My mother's parents planted a tree for every child and grandchild in the backyard. My tree is tallest now, a blue-grey pine that dwarfs everything but Gil's green pine. He is closest to me in age. I am the eldest cousin. Laura's tree is gone--died. I try not to read fate in botany. I eye my overlarge tree with distaste, and Uncle Billy talks about donating it as a Christmas tree to the city of Philadelphia. Yes, I think.

In Virginia a school of cownose rays spend their afternoons and evening in the shallow water in front of the house. They are broad, sometimes two feet wide, and their wing tips breach the water like shark fins. Guppies jump out of the water and Zoe refuses to go overboard. She stands on the steps watching the gray fins break the water's surface in twos. Aunt Lynne and I stand at the water's edge and scream when we see a particularly large ray skimming the water's surface, its shape alien. There are dozens of them, whirling and gliding, and I have never seen anything like it. Skates, they call them here. We find a recipe for fried skate wings, but all agree that after seeing them, smooth as sharks, we would not eat them.

My garden has doubled in size in my absence, and the first eggplant and zucchini blossoms are just opening on their respective vines. The hydrangeas at the yard's edge are blooming, pink again, despite Grandmother's attempts to turn them blue. Aunt Lynne brought me my first bouquet of peonies from DC, and they burst open, gaudy and pink. The day stretches into the evening and we all sit on the porch after dinner, Granddaddy asking the same questions as we supply the same answers, over and over.

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