The wind whistles about the tops of the great pine trees around us and swishes about the bells of my grandmother's wind chimes so that a song seems to always be playing. The air smells of the piney woods and of coffee and of rain somewhere down the road. He and I are nestled together on the front porch swing and he rocks me, tucked in against his side as he pushes us off the ground to go higher and higher. That man always was the best swing pusher in the country...if not the world. And he would sing to me, most of the time little ditties from when he was a kid, or a hymn, one of his favorites on the porch swing was 'Swing Low Sweet Chariot", but he would change the word 'chariot' to my name. He did that with all of his grandbabies.
It was like that until the day that he died. Every time I would come to visit, whether I was a baby or in my early twenties, whether he was sound of mind or lost in his own memories, he always asked me to go sit on that swing while he drank his coffee. He'd start by remarking about the weather, about the countryside, how East Texas is truly 'God's Country' and how I will move there some day along with my dad and the whole family. Then he'd sing for a bit. Then, when I was old enough to understand, he started crafting in words this wonderful life that he knew God had planned for me.
I could go to college at the local university and live with him and my grandma. I could drive him around town, and we could go on vacations together all across the states. I'd have a lovely job, a wonderful husband, and children of my own someday. And he would always leave himself out of that part of my story, because he knew somehow that he wouldn't be there, and he was at peace with it.
He never told me what to do or who to be. He always listened to what it was I said I wanted each and every time, and when I finally confessed that I wanted to be a music teacher he supported me more than anyone else in my life ever thought to, immediately thinking of the 'millions' of children's lives I could change for the better, the grand studio I could have at the local university, the summer programs.
The one thing that absolutely never changed, even when he had forgotten my name or exactly how I was related to him, is that he loved me, and he was proud of me.
The swing is still there. And we all go there when we miss him. On 'rainy days' when I'm feeling low, I tuck myself up in that memory and hold on tight. I'd live there if I could, but I know what he would say....I got to go live my marvelous life that God has planned for me. I can tell him all about it on some porch swing up in heaven, where he sits right now with his coffee waiting for my grandma, and probably swinging the little boy who's grave lays right beside his in the plot he bought all those years ago.
It wasn’t really so long ago; just long in the way things are when you haven’t gone very far or lived many years, I guess. I have too many memories to choose a favourite, but I think about this one now and then, and it’s happy.
I was thirteen, my hair was done nicely, and I was wearing my Sunday clothes. It was a church picnic day and those were the days I loved because we stayed long enough to make new friends and play games with other kids, even though I was too grown up for a lot of things, and too conscious of that. I was one of two thirteen year olds in the parish, and the other was a tall, quiet boy who was admired by everyone but spoke very little and liked best to spend his time entertaining the younger children after Mass. That day it was Cops and Robbers we were playing, and I was too old for it but it didn’t matter, because my fellow thirteen year old was playing with me. It came to the end of the game and we had a trial condemning him as a criminal, after which he escaped and, being one of the tallest out of our little group, I pursued. We ran from the basketball court past the playground and into the area where all the grown ups stood and talked and drank coffee because they didn’t know how to play anymore. I felt their eyes on me. But for a minute it didn’t matter - you know, being grown up and talking like a lady and having manners - because I was running faster than I had ever run before; I was flying, and laughing, and I cared for nothing but my precious freedom.
I never did catch him. I ought to have told myself he was too fast for me in the beginning, before I wasted my breath. Later in the day Dad had quite a good laugh as he recalled seeing me dashing by, skirts flying, neat pretty shoes pounding the pavement, and I felt so embarrassed I started to wish I hadn’t even joined the game, until I remembered how light and giddy I’d been … like a little girl again. So I decided I didn’t mind.
I guess I just want to be there again sometimes, forgetting about everything except a happy brown eyed boy and the feeling that nothing in the world is more important than tapping his shoulder and ending that wonderful chase.
Too Many to count
I have a lot of memories and I'm still making more, even as I write this.
From my childhood:
This is gonna sound odd that this is my favorite but cut me some slack, I don't remember a lot about my childhood. When I was like 8-ish my parents got me some fish. Like an entire fish tank with so many fish (really it was like 8) and in a separate fish bowl I also had a Beta fish. So we had some glow-in-the-dark Tetras, Some Dalmatian Guppies, some weird mini shark things, an Algae eater, and of course the Beta. Since I was 8-ish and clumsy and also unsure as to how to clean a fish tank, my parents always cleaned the fish tanks. One day, I was in my room while they did so, playing with my Monster High Dolls, when my mom calls me. Both my parents had grim expressions. Turns out, when he went to put my Beta back in his bowl, my Dad didn't check the water temperature and accidentally boiled my fish alive. I cried. He looked like he was going to cry. I'm not sure why it's my favorite.
During my Tween years:
When I was about 11 or 12, I LOVED playing card games, my favorite being Rummy. So I'd BEG my parents to play cards with me on the weekends and when we did, we'd stay up till 1-2 AM playing. One particular night we were playing, my dad got a snack and then he got up again to get a fork and knife. Well, he poked me in the back with the handle of his fork and my tired, 11-ish self busted into tears. It didn't hurt. So why did I bust into tears you ask? I thought he stabbed me... I don't know why. He felt so bad about it. Every time I think about it, I laugh hysterically.
#1 I was in a very dark place around the age of 14. Well, on February 28th, 2018 I was in class (an online class because I was homeschooled) and I was a teacher moderator which was a fancy way of saying I was privileged with the ability to take away other people's "Whiteboard tools", their chat privileges, and more. There were 4-6 of us in one class at a time. We kept our peers in check basically. In class, we were playing Wheel of Fortune to review for a unit test. The boys were notorious for beating the girls so much and so drastically. Like, I'm talking scores of 2:20. So yeah. This particular day, the girls and guys TIED! 7 to 7. I was THRILLED! So I said: "I'M SO PROUD OF MY GIRLS! AND MY BOYS, BUT MOSTLY MY GIRLS!" In the chat. A particular someone said, "Wow Victoria, that's biased." I responded with, "It's not biased, it's true." (Which it was indeed true). He sent me a private message asking about my social media and so I gave it to him. He messaged me at 5:18 PM later that day, wanting to be friends. We're now engaged.
#2 In February of last year I was accepted into a college. I no longer go because I lost interest in my major and didn't feel drawn to anything else. But at the time I was more than happy. I finished enrolling that same week and then a few months later, I walked across a stage for a piece of paper saying that I finished 13 years of school and was ready for the "real world." In short, I'd graduated high school.
#3 Getting to publish A Collection of Short Stories at 17 years old, last April.
#4 July 9th, 2021. My first date EVER. My (now) fiance and I had been dating for over 3.5 years and had yet to even meet in person. So when I went to orientation for college last July, after my mom left, I was picked up by him, his parents, and his sister. We had our first date. He gave me flowers and we hugged for 3+ minutes before finally getting in their car to go. We went to a river walk and sat on a bench and just talked and soaked in one another's presence. Then we went to a pizza place and ordered a custom pizza. Eventually, they dropped me back off at the college and I met some friends and I told them all about it and when I finally went to my temporary room, I cried from being so overwhelmed with happiness. My parents didn't know about the date until I went home.
#5 I spent my 18th birthday completely alone. Yeah, I had friends but none of them even cared it was my birthday. My fiance had to work. My family was 5+ hours away and it was a school night. It kinda sucked. To make up for it, my fiance took me out to dinner that weekend. I proposed to him that night.
#6 One day after work, he came to my dorm and crashed for a bit. While he slept, I washed his uniform and some of my laundry. I also cuddled with him and fell asleep with him for a bit. BEST SLEEP EVER. I still sleep best with him cuddling me.
French Toast in the Snow with my Father
Once upon a time I sat on a park bench in the snow with my father and enjoyed a simple breakfast of French Toast and sausage. He passed away more than a decade ago and I miss him every day. The man was patient and kind, the strong silent type who always stayed calm and got things done.
At twelve years old I was a reluctant cub scout who needed to earn my ‘Outdoorsman’ badge that year and thus had to cook a meal outdoors. And yet I had procrastinated such that it was now December, and Ohio winter had set in. I should have done this in the summer, but did not.
And so we awoke early on a Saturday and loaded the camp stove into Dad’s Buick. We ventured into the frozen wilderness of a regional park that was closed for the winter. Dad knew a secret shortcut that got us in. After parking the car we hiked a short distance to find a picnic table buried in the snow. We cleared it off and setup the stove. The park, so normally full of joggers and kids playing frisbee, was empty and silent, save for a squirrel or two, undoubtedly curious about the pair of furry creatures cooking in the dead of winter.
After a few minutes the sausage and toast was sizzling in the pan. Mom had supplied a thermos of hot chocolate; we poured two mugs and made a good natured toast to procrastination, and why I should get things done before winter sets in. Once the food was cooked we warmed our hands on the stove and ate. My dad was in a good mood and so was I. This was a moment of quiet reflection, a chance to ponder the snow covered fields and appreciate warmth, companionship and hot food. If we were cold I don’t remember.
This was more than forty years ago but I remember it as if it was yesterday. The taste of the food and the warm love from the presence of my father. In life there are few moments like this: we need to savor them while we can.
A loving presence
Some nights growing up I would start to cry myself asleep, but he wouldn't let me. He always found me in my crowded room, laying on my bed. Alone.
Jumping up, leaning in, whiskers brushing my damp cheeks. His soft fur smelled of smoke and fresh air.
The rhythmic ins-and-outs of his breathing calmed me, no matter how overwhelmed I felt. His large chartreuse eyes held a comfort that I have never found within a person.
The expression on his little face, with his little wet nose, reminded me that everything would be okay.
Whenever I stroked his smooth dark fur, I remembered that there was more to life than my worries.
No matter how lonely I felt, or how alone I actually was, he always found me when I needed him. Laying beside me until I fell asleep. Tail lightly tapping my forearm.
When I close my eyes at night, I occasionally smell the faint scent of outside air. Sometimes I swear I even fall asleep to the sound of his purr.
I was going through some shit the time I got proposed to be his girlfriend and two days later he asked me if I wanted to go to with him and his uncle with his girl for a coffee and I was like..nobody ever did that for me and I believed that he was inside my mind when he proposed that..so I accepted and I had an amazing day! We went to this place only 1 hour away or less from my hometown and it was so beautiful. Then they took me to this place with the greatest view but it was closed, so we left but...I had the greatest time of my life and later I spend a few last hours with my boyfriend in a romantic way I never had.
I don't think I will ever like ever forget it! Best day of my life...
With her back as tall as the fence Bella's head stuck over the top she craned her giraffe like neck over the fence. Pacing like a maniac Bella's anxiety about being left slowly began to take over.
It was in this moment that I realized Bella was just like me. All four of her legs were constantly moving at the same time that both of my legs were moving. Anxiety and chaos completely overtaking the two of us behind that fence.
The moment my boot was in the iron and my butt landed to sit in the saddle an overwhelming sense of peace seemed to overtake the two us. It was in that moment that I realized that Bella wouldn't leave me and the moment that Bella realized that I wouldn't leaver her.
Something almost magical happened that day in the sandy arena behind Bella's fence.
The bell rang. I sprinted as fast as I could to the front gate of Ren-Ai Elementary School to meet Jacob, David, and John. We went to 7-Eleven and bought lemon tea, donuts, and some candies, then we walked to the park and sat on the wooden bench facing the sunshine. We chatted about all the interesting things that happened in school as we ate. After that, we went to the basketball court and played against each other. When each of us got home, we would play Fortnite together and laughed at each other for doing stupid things in the game. During that time, there was no stress, and we were all naive. We didn’t have to worry about schoolwork, colleges, and responsibilities. Everything was perfect back then. Now, everything seems to be much harder and more complicated. All the free time I had has been replaced by volunteering, club meetings, schoolwork, and sports practice. Stress seems to increase more as I grow older. I hope I can stay in elementary school forever without having to worry about so many things.