Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Volunteer

Adam on his way to deal blackjack at "Las Vegas Night," the big Montessori fundraiser. 
As another year draws to a close, magnificent ruins are piled around us.
     I think of Greenwood without my grandmother—after a hundred years of her presence within the same 100 or so square miles. I’m not really sure how many square miles it is. Just that it seems very little, for a life—for someone like me, who has moved over and over again.
I think about all the things she did and did not do, as far as I know. About the stories that people are telling about her. Somehow I feel that she has settled in my mind, that she is waiting for me to tell her story.
     Adam’s dad, who (to me) is an occasional sound like a landslide in the background. Who seems like a legacy of eradicable influences.  
      Another ruin--the dream of freedom we were having. A particular kind of freedom we’d grown used to, freedom with daily struggle.
     I don’t know exactly what we have replaced that dream with. Now that I’ve been from one end of this island to the other, it feels very small. A small space in which to live a life. We look out at the horizon. Make lists of islands. Tortola, St. John, Jost Van Dyke. St. Croix. Vieques. Culebra. And just beyond that—you can see the mountains of Puerto Rico. The rain forest. Lists of what is within reach.
I’m sitting in my office with a stack of papers I’ve graded heartlessly.

I’ll wake up in the middle of the night thinking of the students and how they could have done better. And how I could have done better.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Weekend at the Agricultural Fair

Retired racehorses, and
miniature Puerto Rican ponies--
face painting, by one of my students, and
attitude with a stick of sugar cane.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

Grandma Byrd's funeral

It was something I'd imagined attending. My mom had paid for the funeral years ago, chosen the casket, everything. Grandma herself had planned it all out, the hymns and the readings. Death hadn't been unwelcome. We'd stood together over the grave of my Aunt Betty once. She'd said, "I'll be down there soon, Jess." Sounding like she was looking forward to that--rejoining. Moving on. My sister told me that her last words were, "I'm tired. My mama's coming to get me." 

I thought about the story that she was born out of wedlock, raised by her aunt--her real mother always nearby, the favorite aunt. 

One hundred years in the northwest corner of South Carolina. Now there she was in the front of the church, lying in that paid-for casket. I tried to imagine what she would look like. At the end of the service, they turned the casket and started rolling it back down the aisle. Show's over, everybody. That was a life.

We rode to the cemetery in a Cadillac limo, the police escort blocking the intersections--momentum keeping that sense of solemnity. A short graveside service and the funeral director, an appropriately condolent look on his youthful face, beckoning everyone to come away while the casket was put in the ground. We cousins stayed. Feeling that we needed to bear witness to that casket disappearing into the red earth. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Weekend in Tortola

Making key lime pie 
Pelicans floating in the current, swallowing minnows
The view of where we came from
We looked up and noticed the boat from the neighboring mooring ball sailing on the horizon, and decided to take off, too--weather was perfect for the five-mile sail to Tortola. Now we're back and contemplating preparations for Tropical Storm Gonzalo, which sounds vaguely Shakespearean.