I heard a bird sing in the dark of December A magical thing and sweet to remember. “We are nearer to Spring than we were in September.” I heard a bird sing In the dark of December. – Oliver Herford, I Heard a Bird Sing It seems impossible that 2007 is drawing to a close! Does time speed up, or…
Mrs. Rockwell’s fourth grade classroom smells of polished wood, chalk dust, and pads of Red Eagle newsprint tablets lined with pale blue lines, a dotted line between the thicker ones to indicate where “t’s” should be crossed. About twenty-five of us are sitting in school desks, our books and papers tucked neatly or messily, as mine are, in the well beneath the desktop. The windows of the room go from the thick green radiators to the ceiling. The windows are raised and lowered by long poles wielded by the boys or the teacher. The boys are noisy, some have dirty fingernails, and their hair is cut in a flat top or slicked to the sides with Brylcream.
The train bisects the blue and the green, parting wheat fields by the tracks. Mommy and I rub shoulders, watching the landscape move backward as we sit in the last car, as if erasing my childhood when she would board the train and leave me aching for her. Now, in my dream, we rub shoulders, her perfume lingering. The old longing wrenches my stomach.
Blanche and I are in her garden. The Iowa air is full and rich, redolent with the scent of thick black earth, green growing things, the sweetness of flowers. When I get close to her, I smell her sweat, see it running in rivulets in the multiple creases in her skin. Her brown eyes under curly eyebrows are fierce as she flails away with the sickle at weeds who have the audacity to grow in her garden and bury the potato patch. Her whole arm rises and falls, sails of flesh hanging from her substantial bones. I am fascinated by her, how she can be so old, her body with its variety of wrinkles and drapings. She is more alive than anyone I have ever known, passionate about weeds, about her tomato plants and her raspberries, her strawberries, her woodpile, and the fire she builds each day in her wood cook stove. Blanche is the hero of my life. Blanche is with me every day, even now.