I try to talk to her, because she always was such a good listener and so much bad has happened since she left.
This place reminds me of her, but I think it's just the sound of the space. The breeze coming through open windows, women older than I talking, the radio playing in the background to keep us all company.
Her house was probably the first place after the divorce and my father's death where I found a way to be relaxed and calm. Like any good Catholic child, I didn't have words to describe what I was feeling. All I knew was that if you let go, if you let any small part go at home, all hell would break loose. So the three of us, my mom, my brother, and I, held on to things so very tightly. White-knuckle death-grips on normality and routine. Pretending that what had happened hadn't affected us, because if we did... If we did, it was all over. If we admitted to our emotions that we actually felt them, lives might have paused to acknowledge that something important had happened, and other things wouldn't be taken care of: food, shelter, kids...
In some of the most frantic, manic times of my life, I would stop moving and thinking too hard when I went to visit her. I remember sitting still and listening to trees, but I'm sure that never happened. I probably just dropped into normal kid activity patterns of small joys, exploring the woods, and games of pretend.
The woods behind her house, which seemed like it went on forever, now is small. You can see houses and roads through the trees. It's not the isolated woods that fairies would want to live in like it once was.
It was as though things were just simpler. There wasn't the pervasive aura of worry and stress, like there was at home. I didn't have to take responsibility for anything too big for me. (In college, we once read a short story about middle class aspiration. A young family lived in a house, but the kids could hear the walls talking about debt and need and greed. The walls would argue as the parents probably argued, so the kids walked around as starving and needy as their parents were. I should get that story back.)
Instead of listening to need of security and absence of those-who-should-have-been-better. I could sit and listen to her and sit and listen to myself. She'd listen to my kid stories and would offer stated support and the knowledge that I could do anything that I wanted. So rare.
I wonder what she was like as a mama. I wish she were still around so that I could ask her what she thought about with three small babies and a teaching job.