Chapter 8 – Sunday June 19
Part 1 of 4
I kept telling myself that I'd been too busy to get a chance to read any of Mom's journals. But somehow I'd managed to read three or four books since Mom died, so the truth was probably more that I was simply putting it off.
They were in a box under my bed, and sometimes when I woke during the night I could think of nothing else. Like they were calling to me. "Jessie… we're waiting for you…" Which was funny, in a way, because I could think of nothing my mom would hate more than all us kids nosing into her private business – and what could possibly be more private than a journal?
On the other hand – she'd had plenty of time to destroy them if she'd wanted to. A fireplace in which to burn them even. I picked one out of the box one evening, planning to dive right in, but just holding it gave me guilt – had me peering over my shoulder into dark corners, nerves on edge, listening for the familiar stern mom-voice, "Jessie – what are you doing poking around in my things?"
I wanted to read them because there was stuff I wanted to know about. I mean, I could be holding an entire family history in my hands, but if I kept avoiding them no one would ever know.
But I was going to browse through at least one journal. Today.
Before meeting my siblings for Sacred Sunday.
I reached into the box.
Mom wrote in cursive, in long loose spiraling loops, that took a few seconds to get used to, the physical look of the writing style giving the writing its own brand of romanticism.
Melanie always had an extra-special spark. I never thought mothers were supposed to notice such things, but I did. It was hard not to notice. Strangers often approached the family specifically to admire her, touch her hair, and give her trinkets just to see her smile.
The other children couldn’t help but noticed the special attention, of course they did, and while I think Elizabeth was jealous sometimes, Jessamine was always willing to join in the fawning admiration, her eyes big and round, her agreeable nods sincere. Jessie lived inside Mellie's beauty, as surely as Mellie lived it. And Mellie, bless her sweet little heart, was always generous with her sisters, the older and the younger.
If she was given a beautiful ribbon for her hair, she would bestow it upon her older sister, Elizabeth, almost immediately. "You have the most beautiful hair, Lizzie, and this ribbon suits you."
A dainty bracelet she would give to Jessamine with kind words. "You're so pretty, sissy, delicate like this bracelet. It would look better on you than on me, and it's so much more your color."
Josie, of course, hadn't been born yet. Wasn't born actually until long after Mellie was lost, and by that time she was so clearly the spoiled baby she might never have noticed, anyway.
If Melanie had spark, Elizabeth was always our serious child. Well, Silas, of course, turned into our serious child, but initially it was Elizabeth. She watched over everyone with eyes as solemn as her sense of responsibility about being the oldest girl. Sometimes I thought she watched over her sisters more carefully than I did. And yet, however serious, she never complained, never seemed burdened. Just centered and content. She was a slow-to-smile child, pious beyond her few years, and a faithful follower of Christ by first grade. And that never changed.
I worried for Elizabeth, and hovered over her while Melanie was gone –Lizzie prayed so hard I thought she might faint from her very devoutness, or from the intensity of her prayerful pleadings. Her young and earnest faith got on my nerves, actually, but since I was too much of a mess to pray, perhaps it was lucky that in Elizabeth's mess, praying was all she could do. She made up for what I was incapable of, evened things out, maybe.
And Mellie came back to us. Thank you, thank you, thank you God and Lizzie – for sending my girl home.
I wish I could say she returned none the worse for wear. Oh, how I wish that – I have always wished it to be so.
But now I feel the water in my eyes, feel my throat tightening, and I know I can't write anymore about that.
"Mo-om, I'm bored. Can we do something?" The almost-shout, almost whine floated into my office from the living room, where the TV was blaring.
"What?" I called back.
"What?" Annabelle yelled. "What?"
"Like what?" I asked, feeling exasperated.
My office door pushed open. Annabelle stood in the door way and glared at me. "What? I can't hear you over the TV, you know."
"You were yelling. I was answering. I didn't turn the TV on."
"You were yelling. I was answering. I didn't turn the TV on."
"Oh, yeah. I'm bored. Can we do something today?"
"It's Sunday," I reminded her. She rolled her eyes. She's nine – where does this teenage style of behavior come from, anyway?
"I know what day it is."
"Are you coming to grandma's?" I asked her.
"I don't know. Is dad going?"
"Probably." I said. Often Annabelle and Sam were content to stay home and order pizza.
"But I want to do something before that," she said, and she put on the pout and puppy dog eyes.
I was starting to feel exasperated. "Like what, Annabelle? Give me an idea."
"Caleb gave me a kite at school the other day. Can we go fly it?"
I looked out the window to see the treetops whipping in the wind. What the heck.
"All right. You grab the kite, I'll grab sweatshirts, and we'll go."
Kite-flying was lovely. I tried to think how long it had been since Annabelle and I took a kite to the sand beach known as Wisconsin Point. Five years? Longer? We'd never had much luck with kites, but perhaps the fancy ones with tails and dowel crossbeams were duds, because the simple kite Caleb had given Annabelle didn't even want to stay on the ground. In fact, we couldn't keep it on the ground long enough to even unwind the string. It just flung itself into the air like a plastic grocery bag, apparently delighted to fly above the water and make the seagulls scream into the wind.
This kite almost was a plastic grocery bag. It was a U shaped pocket with long ribbon tails, no crossbeams to snap, no plastic nose to dive into the sand. Perfection.
Annabelle ran along the beach, leaping waves and foamy surf, shrieking with glee, her bare feet leaving perfect prints in the wet sand.
"It's pulling me, Mom, watch! Do you think it will lift me up? If it were a bigger kite, I bet it would lift me right into the air, like flying. Maybe we could make one that big – out of a big black garbage bag – wouldn’t that be cool, Mom, not just flying a kite, but flying in the air with a kite?"
Her chatter continued, while I trailed behind her indulgently. The wind pulled at my hair, and I wished my own Mom could be here to see this. It wasn't Annabelle's first time with a kite, but it might be the first time that she will remember, the first time that a kite actually cooperated.