Task: Write a scene in which a character’s body, as well as his/her mind, is engaged in doing something.
“What happened to Emory?” I ask my sister Sam.
“Who’s Emory?” She is up to her knees in clothes and newspapers.
“You know, Emory! My teddy bear from when I was a kid!” How could she not remember Emory? She was the one who painted his ears green with watercolors that turned out to be more like oil based acrylics.
“Good God Mae, what kid names her teddy bear Emory? Why would that thing be here with Grandpa’s stuff?” Sam closes and tapes shut another box of clothes for Goodwill. “I really don’t think you’ll find it here.”
“I don’t know. I just don’t remember having Emory past that time we came here for the Fourth of July. You know, the year the multi-pack went off sideways and we had to hit the ground? I think it was in 1987 or something because I hadn’t quite started high school yet.” I open another drawer of the dresser in the attic. It is full of odds-and-ends pieces of wrapping paper that is obviously from the 1950’s. Everything smells musty. Grandpa has been gone for seven months. We are finally going through his things. Our parents live too far away now so the task is left to Sam and I, the two grandkids who had lived within a mile of our Grandparents almost our entire lives. Sam and I had talked about doing this for months but could never seem to coordinate schedules. Once, in February, we had started but got as far as the attic door before we decided to go back into town for a cold beer instead. This weekend was it and we realize now that one weekend was not going to be enough time. We had no idea what we were up against…this could require time off from work.
“Hey Mae…’member this?” Sam pulls out a badly bent straw hat. It has a see-thru green visor built into it. We both recognize it as the one Grandpa wore when he was out in the fields. He had been a farmer for over 40 years. Sam puts it on her head. It is too big and comically skewed sideways on her head.
“Oh my God Sam…that is awful!” We both catch ourselves laughing for the first time that day. “Hey, ‘member when we each sat up in one of the tractors, I think I had the combine and you had the red I-H, and we played on the CB radio?”
Sam smiles. “Oh my GOD Mae! Yes! We were talking about what boys we liked and then Uncle Joe came on the radio and let us know…”
“…that everyone on that frequency could hear us!” I finish her sentence. I am laughing so hard my jaw hurts. “I don’t know Sammy, I think Corey is cuter, but Scott is sooo much older.” I mimic my ten-year-old self. We both go into silent laugh mode for a full minute.
“That was so embarrassing!” Sam pats at her eyes with the corner of an old jacket sleeve. “But Uncle Joe was cool about it. He didn’t even mention it at supper when he came in.”
“He probably just forgot. God, our world was so small then.”
“Small but comfortable.”
“I miss Grandpa.”
“I do too Sam. My heart hurts.”
“Mine too. I wonder if it will ever stop hurting?”
I don’t bother answering; I know it’s rhetorical. Grandma had died almost 9 years ago and some days the pain of her not being there was so fresh it was like it had just happened all over again. And some days, it was like a whisper. Grief is like that. Maybe grief thinks it’s being nice with the occasional reprieve but all it does is make the pain worse when it comes back fresh again. I pick up more clothes and start folding them into boxes. So many clothes. All I can remember Grandpa wearing are button down shirts and tan slacks the last few years. There was a time when he wore the short-sleeved button down shirts with blue jeans and black leather boots when he was farming. He always tucked in his shirts and wore white undershirts. And he wore that straw hat with the built-in see-thru green visor. These things are etched in my memory, just like the memory of how there were always puppies and kittens under the front porch, clothes in the dryer, and Blue Bunny ice cream in the deep freeze at the farm. It is a comfortable place and I know Sam feels the same family spirits around her that I do as we pack up these simple material things, some new, some old, some very very old…
“Hey! Look who I found!” I hold up Emory, the long-lost teddy bear from my youth. His ears are still faintly green. It looks like he had been shoved in a dresser drawer with some sheets and an old wind up alarm clock.
“No frickin’ way.” Sam chuckles. “I thought for sure that little guy was history.”
“Do you think Freddy would like him?” My nephew is going on three-years old. Emory appears to have a few years left in him.
“Yeah. I think he would.” Sam grabs the box of old newspapers for recycling she had just filled and points to the second one. “Here, help me take these downstairs and we’ll take a break. My back is killing me and I need to check in with James, see how that little Fredkins of mine is doing.”
I grab the second box and follow her down the stairs. Emory is riding on the top of my box. I’m not quite ready to let him go, maybe in a day or two. As I look up I notice that Sam is still wearing Grandpa’s old straw hat. What I don’t notice is that we are both silently crying, starting our private goodbyes. I think it is just me.