Okay, by now you must have realized how far behind I am. Am I done? Nope. Not until April 30th. 😉
While the stories are linked, each (mostly, sort of) is a standalone. However, if you’ve missed any and want to read them, you can catch up here.
My fingers sift through rich, dark coffee-colored earth. I smell its being. Its life-giving force. This rich valley soil I know, understand. Generations of my family have prospered here. Appalachian people, fiercely proud, always their own. Never owning anyone.
None of us at the prime of our lives has left this soil. We’ve dug it, planted it, harvested it, knowing we’d always pass it on to our children. I grasp a velvety petaled purple petunia. It is narrow, short, but I know that by summer’s end, it will have spread in every direction, become a mound of royal purple flowers to attract bees of all kinds. If I leave, I will miss that.
But you can grow petunias on the coast, I remind myself.
For weeks I thought my answer was just removing myself from the familiar, the errors multiplied by proximity. Yet, I feel the pull of ancestry. All of the cozy Christmases, the celebratory July 4ths, the bittersweet harvest hayrides.
“This isn’t Brigadoon, you know,” Charlie says, as if reading my thoughts. “We’ll all still exist even if you move to the coast. We’ll still welcome you back for all of the good times.”
I laugh, shake my head. “Either I’m easy to read or you’ve become a mind-reader.”
“A little of both?”
I mound soil around the petunia and then sit back. “It’s a lot to give up.”
He shrugs. “In some ways. You’ve got a chance for the fresh start you’ve always wanted. We both know that staying here was never your first choice. I’m surprised you came back after college.”
I nod, don’t add that I didn’t feel like I really had a choice. It goes unspoken. We both recognize family obligation. For Charlie, though, it was never a sacrifice. For me?
“You’ll come visit me?” I ask.
He guffaws. “Are you freaking kidding me? What wouldn’t I do for a beach trip? Your problem may be getting rid of me.”
“Ha. That wouldn’t happen unless you brought Leah with you.”
We fall into silence. We’ve been like siblings always. Twins because of our age. So much more than cousins. Closer than my sister and me.
“I’m going to go,” I say.
He nods. “It’s the right thing for you. I’d have been disappointed in you if you’d decided anything else.”
We smile at each other. We’re good. We’ll always be twins at heart. I plant the remainder of petunias, knowing I’ll come back in late August to see the purple wave undulating across the garden.
As the early summer breeze kicks up, I feel my freedom swirling in it. So alive. I feel so very alive.