When I was in college I went through a phase where I wanted to abandon everything and go to South America. I’m not sure why I chose South America to escape to…maybe it seemed close enough to home to not be a risk, but just rough enough around the edges to sound cool. But there was something gritty about it: “I’m going to go to South America and be hot and sweaty and dusty all the time, and not wear sunscreen, and escape to humid areas every now and then and get even more sweaty, and then I’m going to eat a really spicy food without having water nearby, and all this time I’m going to be reading Tropic of Cancer and something by Kafka.”
Instantly cool, right? Right.
On one of my first days back at college after my mom passed away, one of my English teachers asked us to close our eyes and envision a happy place. Such a lame question, I know, but go with it. I can’t even remember why she asked it. When I closed my eyes, I expected to see one of two things: (1) me, freshly escaped to South America–sweaty and dusty, of course–or (2) a vision of me laughing at her for asking such a lame question. Instead, I actually went somewhere real. Somewhere I thought my mind wouldn’t have the guts to go: I was floating above my childhood home in South Dakota. Right above the peak of the A-frame. It was slightly windy, and I could see everything: the 10 foot-tall lilac bushes in a horseshoe formation on one side of the house, the clothes line on the other, the barn, and the entire front and back lawn. The sunroom wasn’t built yet (I know exactly why, but I can’t bring myself to type it).
I saw Mom and me hanging out the laundry together. Well, it was her hanging the laundry. I was still too short to reach the line, so I was the keeper of the clothes pins. We were hanging up a faded floral sheet that would undoubtedly be pooped on by a bird and need to be rewashed. And we were laughing. The sun was starting to get low in the sky, and I would venture a guess that it was about 5:00p.
Stephen (my brother) was probably inside making an amazing model airplane with nothing but hot glue, cardboard, straws, and saran wrap just because he could, and he’s that brilliant. Dave (my step-dad) was mowing the front lawn with the freshly restored Ford tractor, and all was well. We would probably go inside soon and make Dave’s favorite meal: hamburgers and boiled potatoes. Since it was summer, there would be sweet corn too, and it would be perfect.