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Because my Grandpa’s stories are oral history, it felt natural to write them as dialog, with long, descriptive settings. What has resulted is a play that’s meant to be read, rather than staged. I’m not sure this is the best format, but doing it this way was a wonderful way of capturing those conversations–and no matter what format the book eventually takes, it’ll be a great source to mine for dialog. Here’s a little snippet–see what you think:

SETTING: A kitchen. Carol stands at the stove stirring something.  Bodie and Marie kneel on the sofa in the living room, their elbows propped on the window sill behind the sofa, noses pressed to the glass. Pam puts plates on the table. Sally and Matt play on the floor with a giant Texaco truck and a set of blocks.

CAROL (impatiently):  Come away from that window.  I told you kids they won’t be here for over a week.

MARIE: But the drive only takes four days. I remember.

CAROL: They don’t do it like we do. They like to stop and eat, and see things on the way.  They haven’t even left home yet, and when they do it’ll be another two weeks before they get here. They’re going through the Black Hills and the Badlands and Yellowstone. They might even stop at the Grand Canyon.

BODIE: But they might skip all those things. They might just come straight here.

CAROL: No they won’t! Now come away from the window.

(The two girls slide reluctantly off the sofa and scuff across the living room. Marie surreptitiously kicks over the block tower Sally is making.  An  engine hums and both girls shoot back to the window.

CAROL: I’m not going to tell you again, they won’t be here until two weeks from Friday, at the earliest.  Now get away from that window.

Scene: The same, two weeks later—living room, kids playing, Carol sewing this time. This time Pam and Marie are at the window. An engine hums and gravel crunches, and a Galaxy 500 slides past the window.

PAM and MARIE (shouting): Grandma and Grandpa are here! Grandma and Grandpa are here!

BODIE (running from the bedroom): They’re here! Grandma and Grandpa are here!

SALLY and MATT (running from the hall): They’re here? Grandma and Grandpa? They’re here!

(All five children rush outside and stand, jigging impatiently, as the car door swing open and Bill and Gladys climb out. Gladys is dressed in a sleeveless, floral print cotton shift, bare legs, anklets, and flat shoes that tie. Bill wears a short-sleeved plaid cotton shirt and green duck pants. The children mob them, hugging them, burying their faces in Bill and Gladys’ stomachs and shoulders (depending on child height). Bill and Gladys reach out, hugging each child in turn, dispensing greetings and exclamations.

GLADYS:  Ooh, I’ve missed you so much. (hugging Pam) Pam, you’ve gotten so tall. Marie, look at you, that pretty blonde hair.(she reaches out and strokes Marie’s head)..and Bodie, you’re as tall as Marie…where’s Sally? Oh, here you are…just look at those curls…(she picks up Sally and squeezes her) Matt, you’re such a big boy…We bought you kids some presents on the trip…They’re in our suitcases. When we get in the house I’ll get them out for you.”

BILL: Hey, hey, if it isn’t Pam, and Bodie, and Marie…Sally…how’s my little potato bug? We stopped at Fort Bridger. I wish you could have seen it. I boughtcha a little something there. Matt, gotta handshake for Grandpa?

GLADYS: We went through the Black Hills and the scenery was just bee-yoo-ti-ful! I took a LOT of pictures.

(Milling and chattering, the children drag Bill and Gladys’ suitcases and boxes into the house and into the bedroom they will be using.)

VOICEOVER (BODIE): And eventually the suitcases opened and Grandma handed out her presents: “Here, Bodie, this is for you…” And she would hand me a furry hat with pompoms on the ties, a pair of pretty socks, a tiny doll in a long dress, apron, and sunbonnet.

Grandpa carried his presents in his pockets, or wrapped in tissue paper and tucked into bags printed with the names of magic places: Wall Drug; Cody, Wyoming; Yellowstone; Mount Rushmore. He dispensed his gifts in secret at odd moments, shuffling up to us with a bag in his hand: “Here, Bodie, I got a little something for ya.” And his trembling fingers fumbled the bag open, slid inside, and drew out a little pair of beaded moccasins, a penny stamped with a baseball player, a pen with a black bear inside it. When I tilted the pen one way the bear lumbered through the woods and into his cave at the other end of the pen case. When I tilted it the other way the bear walked backward to the forest where he started.

(Short cuts of Gladys opening suitcase and pulling tissue-wrapped packages from among the packed clothes, and of Bill pulling bags out of his pockets and giving them to children in doorways, in the hallway, at odd moments, of Gladys cooking, crafting, cleaning)

Once the furor of arrival died down the visits settled into a routine. Grandma stomped around complaining about her arthritis and making orange frosted coffee cake and painting ceramic dolls and refinishing furniture and talking to Momma. She had a wiry hairbrush, which my sisters told me she used to spank naughty girls. I watched my mouth around Grandma.

During the day Grandpa sat on the couch in his baggy green work pants, legs crossed at the knees, reading Zane Grey and Ellery Queen. Mornings and evenings he weeded in the garden, his thick leathery brown fingers easing the morning glory roots away from the carrots, radishes, and dahlias in our wilting, overgrown garden, sandy soil clinging to his knees.

SCENE

SETTING: It is early evening. Bill kneels in the garden, digging weeds out carefully, tucking them into a gunny sack, then spooning dirt around the roots, trickling in water, adding a little fertilizer. Bodie kneels facing him. Beside her is a waving pile of leafy green weed tops.

BILL (looking at the pile of weed tops): Here, Bodie, let me get that. You have ta dig these things out from the bottom, see? If you leave anything—even a little piece like this (shows her a half-inch root segment)—it comes back just that much worse. Every single bit of root you leave laying around turns into a new plant. Bet you didn’t know that, huh?

BODIE: Huh uh…What’cha doin’ now?

BILL: I’m checkin’ around the roots here, just makin’ sure I’ve got all the weed roots out a the plant roots. If ya don’t, those weed roots’ll just strangle the plant right where it stands. Then, (digging carefully) when you’ve got the weed roots all out ya loosen up the dirt like this, see, an’ pour in a little fertilizer, an’ a little water, an’ then ya tamp the dirt down…just knuckle it in real easy, like this. Ya gotta be careful a the roots, see.

BODIE (watching): Can I help?

BILL: Why don’t’cha carry these weeds over an’ dump’em for Honey Dew and Joe? They eat’em, don’t they?

BODIE: Only if I hold’em in my hand. They’ll eat anything we hold in our hands. Watch this.

(She jumps up, jumps down the garden a row at a time, leans down, and pulls a big onion. Bill leans back on his heels and rests his hands on his thighs, trowel still held in one hand. Bodie hops down another few rows and pulls up a fistful of something else.

BILL: What’cha got there?

BODIE: Onions an’ horseradishes.

BILL: That horse ain’t gonna eat that.

BODIE: She will, too.

BILL: This I gotta see.

Bill stands and follows Bodie over to the fence, carrying the sack of weeds with him. Bodie leans down and slides between the strands of barbed wire, holding her onion and horseradishes to her chest.

BODIE: Here, Honey Dew. Here girl. (A white Welsh pony lifts her head, then trots up to Bodie.) Here you go, girl. (Bodie holds the onion out on the flat of her hand. Honey Dew takes a big bite, and then another, then chews and swallows, tears streaming from her eyes.)

BODIE: You like that, girl?  Here, try this. (She holds out a horseradish. Honey Dew bites into it, chews it up, and swallows it, tearing up even more fiercely. Bodie rub the pony’s nose, then her neck.) What a good girl! (Honey Dew drops her head onto Bodie’s shoulder and sighs.)

BILL (dumping the weeds over the fence): Well, I’ll be…. Here you go, girl. These gotta taste better’n onions and horseradishes.

BODIE: She won’t eat’em.

(Honey Dew walks over to the weeds, sniffs them, and then walks away. Bodie leans down and picks up a handful.)

BODIE: Here, Honey Dew, here girl.

(Honey Dew turns, ears up, and hurries back to Bodie.  Bodie holds the weeds out. Honey Dew lips them up and eats them with every evidence of enjoyment.)

BILL: (chuckling) Well I’ll be darned. (He watches Bodie pet the pony, then turns and looks over the yard at the children playing, then down across the river. Then he goes back to the row he has been weeding, sinks to his knees, groaning a bit, and goes back to weeding. After a while Bodie leaves, then comes back with a halter.

BILL (sitting up straight to watch her again): Whatcha doin?

BODIE: Getting’ Honey Dew. Marie wants to give her a bath and take her in the house again.

 (She clips the rope on Honey Dew’s halter and leads her out of the pasture, closing the gate behind her.

BILL: Why you wanna take’er in the house?

BODIE: I don’t. (She leads Honey Dew away)

Bill shakes his head, chuckles, and goes back to weeding.

PAM: (shouting) Marie, don’t bath’er. It’s too late. She catch cold.

MARIE: (shouting back) I can’t take’er in dirty. (She turns the hose on.)

PAM: Marie, don’t. She’ll get sick!

MARIE: No she won’t. It’s warm out.

PAM: But it’ll get cold before she’s dry.

MARIE: Grandpa wants to see.

(Bill weeds on, oblivious. Bodie comes back into the garden and drops to her knees by Bill.)

BILL: What’s all the shouting?

BODIE: Marie wants to wash Honey Dew and Pam won’t let’er.

BILL: Awful late to be washin’ a horse tonight, ain’t it?

BODIE: (reasonably) She can’t take’er inside dirty.

BILL: Why’d she want to do that, anyway?

BODIE: So you can see.

BILL:  She’d do that for me?

BODIE: Well sure. We all would.

BILL (looking at her, half-smiling): Huh. (He goes back to digging.)

BODIE: Why you goin’ so slow, Grandpa?

BILL: Cause I gotta be careful. I get in a hurry, I’ll hurt the roots.

BODIE: Daddy says we have to hurry up a lot.

BILL: Sometimes you go too fast you can get hurt.

BODIE: (sadly) Uh huh.  Do girls have roots?

BILL: (chuckling) I don’t know. I suppose they might.

BODIE: I love you, Grandpa.

BILL: Huh?

BODIE (shouting): I love you.

BILL (quietly): I love you, too.

BODIE: Can I give you a kiss?

BILL: (turning his head and tapping his cheek) Plant one right there.

Bodie leans forward and kisses his cheek gently, then jumps up and runs away. Bill looks after her, then shakes his head, smiles, and goes back to weeding as the sky darkens into night.

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When I was thirteen my grandparents moved into our basement. Having Grandma and Grandpa living with us changed my life in profound ways. For one thing, Grandma and Grandpa liked our friends, and our friends liked them. It took me years to realize that other people’s grandparents didn’t become beloved figures among their grandchildren’s friends. It’s hard to say what their magic was–they were not rich, or particularly well educated, or stylish. They were an elderly German couple from the Midwest. Grandma was loud and boisterous. Grandpa was softspoken, and had a wicked sense of humor. They were both storytellers. Grandma told her stories loudly and emphatically, with an eye to drama. Grandpa told his softly and matter-of-factly, often ending with a rusty chuckle and a “bet ya didn’t know that, didja?”

Grandma was a carpenter. Grandpa was a member of the Harlequin book club. Grandma was diabetic and made orange coffee cake for us. Grandpa loaded us kids into his car and bought us Charburgers.  Together they took us through the Columbia Gorge, and stopped at all the waterfalls.  Grandma stumped emphatically around snapping pictures. Grandpa walked around with us kids, telling us stories about his days driving trucks from Wisconsin to Portland, on the very road we were driving.

I loved Grandma and Grandpa, and I never took them for granted. I never lost sight of the fact that their presence in our basement was in the nature of a loan, not a gift. They would not be there forever. Still, though, they were there for a long time–five years, during which Grandpa and I worked together on the ranch. During our lunch breaks, Grandpa told me stories.

Five years is a long time, and Grandpa tended to repeat himself. But I never minded–it was Grandpa, and I loved listening to his soft voice, his rusty chuckle, and his dry wit. He told me his stories in the garden. He told me his stories sitting under the truck on the ranch while we ate our lunch. He told me his stories while we were riding in the car. And always in the same words, with the same intonations, the same pauses. Listening to Grandpa was my first exposure to literature. Had he been born a thousand years earlier he could have been a bard, or perhaps a minstrel. Certainly his memory was prodigious. He could still recite huge swaths of Hiawatha, which he had learned before leaving school at the end of Eighth Grade.

I listened to his stories the same way that I read books, going back over and over to reread favorites, asking again and again for favorite stories. And then one day it came to an end. Grandma and Grandpa went back to their house in Wisconsin and took up the threads of the life they had left when they came to live with us. All that was left behind was an empty room in our basement, a few Harlequin romances  we girls had squirreled away, and the fugitive smell of butterscotch and chewing tobacco. And the stories.

Before I had ever considered writing, Grandpa taught me how to play with words, how to craft a story, and how to build a scene. My Grandpa is the reason I am a writer today. It is perhaps fitting that over the last few years I have been writing down Grandpa’s stories. And I could do it, word for word, because Grandpa had written them in his head, and then spooled them out, time after time, binding our souls so tightly that even now I can see his face, and hear his voice, and writing his stories is not an act of creation, but of transcription.

And so the next project, I think, will be a novel filled and shaped by Grandpa’s stories, the familiar old favorites, and the stories he only told me once, in a time of great need. (That’s for tomorrow.) My Grandpa was a man worth knowing–a good, simple, clear-sighted man who knew the value of moving slowly, nurturing blossoms and children, and treating roots gently.

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Pat and Maggie and my lax housekeeping habits have sparked some conversation both here and over on a listserv where I participate, about how the things people leave behind acquire a significance far out of proportion to intrinsic value. It reminded me of a column I wrote for Sage Woman magazine several years ago. And so, in the interest of things left behind, I’ve dug it out and reposted it here. Enjoy!

Finding the Green

I sit crosslegged on the floor, surrounded by half-empty orange boxes. Each carries a series of scribbled labels, some in my mother’s careful hand, some in my father’s impatient scrawl. I look at the labels and see my mother, lips slightly pursed, and my father, huge hand engulfing the Magic Marker, stooping a little because his back hurts too much to bend and he is just too big to do something as fiddly as writing easily.

The labels have little to do with the boxes’ contents. When I got my first apartment Mom sorted through the family Christmas ornaments, put the ones she wanted to keep into new boxes, and repacked the rest into the old age-ambered Sunkist boxes for me, carefully re-labelling  each box’s end, side, and top. She has packed the boxes several times since then, each time inscribing  a new label beside the old.

Mom believes any label—no matter how inaccurate—is better than none. Labels keep her world tidy. I am her polar opposite. If I want to know, really know, what’s in a box I sit down on the floor, pop the lid, and have a good rummage. It drives Mom crazy. That’s what I’m doing today—opening boxes, sorting, discarding, repacking. My goal is a room where I can set up my altar and leave it up. But to get there, I will actually have to get rid of good stuff.

I open another box and think of Mom and labels. Our relationship today is not easy, largely because we do not share a past. There is my past, in which my father molested two of my aunts, my oldest sister and quite probably me, and in which my mother probably knew, and did nothing. The strain of keeping the secrets pushed Mom, already unstable, over the edge into intermittent madness and violence. That is my past.

In Mom’s past Dad may have molested us, but she “just had no idea,” the craziness was “what we should be doing,” and she “had no choice.” The labels she has slapped on my life have as little to do with my past as the labels on these boxes have to do with their contents. Mom’s past is presentable. Mine makes sense. Neither of us feels like trading.

I pull out the boxes in the back of the closet. You know the kind—you pull the lid off as you’re packing the U-haul, shudder, retape, stick the box onto the truck, and forget it until the next time you’re packing the U-haul.

But my heart is set on making room for myself today in a house filled with yesterdays. I unearth mysterious objects: an old autograph album; a canteen; birthday cards; love letters. The saccharine sentiments belonged to the fifteen-year-old girl I was; they are mine no longer. I sigh, slip them almost reverently into the trash, and yank the tape off the last box.

Mom packed this box years ago when I had a new baby and my life broke. In spite of our battered past my parents were there to pack up the pieces and help me build a future for my son.  I toss the lid aside and stare at a small pitcher, a stuffed cow, a tiny diaper. I open the diaper, remember that even this tiny thing was too big for my child in the beginning, and feel the peace of those days when we moved through a haze of autumn sunshine and sleep deprivation, and bright leaves swirled outside while the fragrance of newborn baby filled the house.

I tuck the diaper back into the box and lift the stuffed cow my nephew bought me years ago. The gap in my life where he used to stand suddenly seems very cold and empty. I press the cow to my cheek, swallow, and return it to the box.

And then, under expired Disneyland passes and wrinkled Knott’s Berry Farm bags, I see green. I push the bags aside and there they are: Grandpa’s gardening clothes.

The spring I was fifteen Grandma and Grandpa came to live with us. Every morning and evening Grandpa worked in our garden, his leathery brown fingers easing the morning glory roots away from vegetables, sandy soil clinging to his green khaki knees. Grandpa liked company while he worked, but he didn’t want help. My impatient hands seized the morning glory’s leafy tops and snapped them off at the surface.

“Here, Bodie, let me get that,” he said quietly when he saw my pile of leafy weed tops. “Ya have to dig these things out from the bottom, see? If ya leave anything—even a little piece—it just comes back just that much worse. Every single bit a root ya leave laying around turns into a new plant. Betcha didn’t know that, huh?” He deftly separated strengthening roots from strangling roots. Then he worked in a little compost, drizzled a little water, spooned the dirt back around the roots, knuckled the soil gently and drizzled more water. “Ya gotta be gentle or ya bruise the roots,” he said. “Ya just trickle a little water in as ya go, see, so the air doesn’t get to’em.” I never saw him break a root.

I unfold the pants and touch the knees gently, right where Grandpa would have pressed them into the earth, then set them on my lap and shake out the plaid shirt. Grandpa wore it the summer he drove the grader and I drove the water truck, building ranch roads. All that hot summer we met and jounced past each other, miles away from anyone else.

We packed sandwiches and fruit and ate our lunches sitting on the sand beneath the water truck in dripping shade, sage-and-juniper-scented breeze cool against our damp skin, desert flowers papery and fragile around us. We ate sandwiches and drank deep from plastic water jugs and Grandpa told me stories, over and over. By summer’s end I knew them, letter perfect.

Sometimes we talked about religion. Grandpa was against it. “Oh, I believe in God,” he’d say. “I just don’t believe ya gotta go ta church ta know’im. Every time I go, there they are with their hands out. And all those rules…” he shook his head. “Seems to me if you just treat people decent…ya know?”

“I hear ya, Grandpa,” I said, and I did, not that it did me any good. My own religion would be considerably more complex for some time to come. Grandpa treated me like the plants in his garden—he gently loosened things up, eased the strangling restrictions, saw to it that I got what I needed to develop a better root system, and eventually, to bloom.

Grandpa did something else that summer: He made me a song. He sang it standing in the steaming road, under the truck, and in the pickup on the way home when work was done. “You are my pride and joy/You are my water truck,” he rumbled, his voice flat and soft. In the beginning he sang, “You are my pride and joy/you are my water boy,” but then he changed it.

I was not a boy; I was a girl. Grandpa, who understood the true nature of gardens, churches, and girls, recognized that. “Truck” rhymed better than “girl”, sort of, so “truck” it was. The song became a password between us, a key to the little oasis of peace, love, and safety he carved out for me that summer.

Sitting in my hallway, his shirt in my hands, I can see us there yet, a worn man in green khaki pants and plaid shirt, a tall girl in bib overalls, sunbleached hair pulled into tight French braids, eating sandwiches and drinking from old bleach jugs while the truck drips a gentle, cooling rain around us. We are smiling.

I lay the shirt aside and take up the undershirt, painted with a brilliant blue and red parrot. “I picked the shirt you painted for him,” Mom told me when she gave me the clothes. “He loved the things you painted.” This was true; at a time when everyone in my family, including me, saw my art as a cute trick, Grandpa saw more.

“Get in the car, Bodie, I’m gonna buy you some paints,” he said soon after he and Grandma arrived.

“You don’t have to, Grandpa,” I said, though I wanted paints more than anything. “Paints cost a lot.”

“I have enough,” Grandpa said. We drove to the hobby shop. Grandpa said, “Pick what you need.”

I chose carefully: the tiniest tubes of paint, the smallest bottle of linseed oil, the cheapest brushes, an 8 x 10 pad of canvas. “I think this is it, Grandpa,” I said.

“Ya wanna paint big pictures, don’t’cha?” He reached for the 24 x 36 canvases.

“Thanks, Grandpa,” I said, took my small pad out of the basket and bent to replace it.

“Hold onto that,” Grandpa said.

“But I don’t need two,” I protested.

“Ya want it, don’t’cha?”

“Yes, but—”

Grandpa headed for the paint aisle. “You’re gonna need more paint than that, aren’t’cha?” he said over his shoulder. “Them little tubes ain’t gonna cover much territory.”

“But—“

“Here, get this one.” He handed me the professional-grade paint collection. The paint tubes seemed huge.

“But Grandpa, that costs—”

“Never mind that.”

I gave Grandpa my first painting. When I got the idea of painting shirts Mom said, “You better just paint on old ones.” And various family members donated shirts—old, limp, studded with tiny holes. Grandpa gave me two shirts—new ones. I painted a parrot on one, and a peacock on the other.

When Mom gave me Grandpa’s gardening clothes I thanked her, folded them carefully, put them back into the bag, and set them on my closet shelf.

A year later I learned that my parents had concealed a web of molestation and abuse involving most of my family. Learning our true history gave new and frightening nuances to events I had simply accepted as things that happened to me because I was “bad.” I started asking questions. Dad said I had a “weak grip on reality.”

It was true. People I loved and trusted had lied about the very basis of our life. I asked more questions. Mom and Dad contradicted themselves and each other, when they answered at all. “Truth” and “reality” became slippery concepts, moving points. Who were my parents? Who was I?

I clung to the memory of Grandpa. Surely Grandpa hadn’t lied? One day I realized that I could no longer remember his face. I searched frantically for the clothes, but they were gone.

And now, twelve years and three moves later, I hold them in my hands again.  I stand and walk down the hall to the living room, carrying them flat on my palms like vestments.

“Look, Patrick,” I say. I begin to cry.

“Are you okay, Mom?” he asks.

“Yes, honey, I’m fine.” I swallow, laugh, slap tears from my cheeks, and show him the clothes that were as much a part of Grandpa as his leathery, just-shaved cheeks, the smell of Copenhagen, and Digger O’Dell, his garden trowel.

I lay the clothes on the sofa and go back to finish the last box. The Knott’s Berry Farm bags lie in the bottom. I pick them up, already reaching for the trash bag. But there’s something inside. I upend the heavier bag. Four small gray stones spill into my hand. Each holds a painted animal. I cannot imagine myself buying these things—and yet I must have, because here they are. I rather like the duck and the quail, but I can’t even identify the other two animals. On looks like a mound of sticks, the other like a deer with balloons tied to its antlers. What right-thinking deer would do a thing like that?

I drop them into Patrick’s toy box and shake open the last bag. A small book falls out. I have just dropped Northwest Native American spirit rocks into my son’s toy box, spirit rocks I must have chosen on some long-ago day, for reasons I can neither remember nor understand.

I dig through toys, retrieve the stones, lay them out beside me, and look up their meanings: “Loon…solitude, singing; Moose…survival, headstrong (and festive, with those balloons); Porcupine…innocence; Quail…sacred spiral.”

I think of my broken family relationships and my largely solitary life as a writer, of the strength that allowed me to survive with my soul intact, of the innocence that was Grandpa’s gift to me, of the sacred path I have just begun to travel, and which requires that I examine my life, keep the precious, jettison the trash, and make room for the new. The stones are a message from myself, sent at a time when even I did not understand their meaning.

I gather them up in both hands, and place them carefully within the chest where I keep my sacred things. One day soon I will haul out the last bag of trash and donate the last box to Goodwill. I will cleanse and sanctify the room. I will position the chest, shake out the altar cloth, and dress the candles. But before I set them on the altar, I will open the chest, and I look again at the things I have placed within it: Grandpa’s gardening clothes, and painted stones, gifts from my past to my future.

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Standards are important. They let us know when we have achieved what we dreamed of doing, or if we’ve lost our way. The trip back from Portland with my cousin Jeffie reminded me of some of my earliest benchmarks, the standards against which I have measured all other things.

One of those firsts was the first time my Grandpa took me through the old road in the Columbia Gorge. As we drove the winding road through the moss-hung forests he told me about driving the road in trucks, about Celilo Falls, about Multnomah. And all the while the rain pattered on the car windows, dripped off the trees, and soaked the lichens growing on the pitted gray arches that guarded the steepest sections of road. The heater hummed, and I curled up on the back seat, warm and drowsy, as Grandpa’s voice went on and on, weaving a magic strong enough to last me the rest of my life.

I looked out at the rain-polished world and thought about how we were driving exactly where Grandpa used to drive. All that divided us were years. Now, I am startled to realize that when Grandpa told us his stories we were only about thirty years apart. More years now divide me from that day in the car than divided me from Grandpa in his truck. But never mind.

We passed a small stone house. Its windows glowed golden and glistened on falling droplets as we passed. I watched the house as long as I could, kneeling on the back seat, staring out the back window until a curve blocked its silent promise of a dry place by the fire.

That day, that road, and that house became benchmarks for me–the road a gateway to a mysterious realm, the house the ideal home for which I would strive, the day a symbol of a time when anything and everything was possible, as long as it was contained in my grandfather’s soft, rusty voice.

I have driven the old road many times in the years since then. The road has had its ups and downs. Sections have fallen into disrepair. Some have been restored. The small stone house stood empty and derelict for decades. But two days ago, when I drove the road again with Jeffie–who increasingly looks like Grandpa, even as I am coming to resemble Grandma–the rain still fell, the leaves and moss still shone as if they had been polished, even the asphalt looked like glass. And the house? The small house that became the standard by which I have since measured home? The house that stood forgotten, broken, and sad? Well, take a look. Someone has looked at it, saw what I saw, and gave it back to itself. The benchmarks hold firm.

(Thanks to Jeffie, who took these pictures while I drove.)

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