The Parade

Lauren Luckey

 

When I was small her house was a time capsule

and the car was like a time machine.

We drove two hours in any weather

and arrived in 1962

With barbershops and their candystripe spinners

and parades and candy and sirens.

After being stuffed full of pie we slept

completely engrossed in the next day’s adventure.

 

As the next day’s breakfast began to drag into lunch I woke

mummified in blankets and quilts born sixty-seven years before me.

The threads had grown together like roots of a tree.

Enthusiastic sunshine at anytime

trying to burst through to my retinas and share it’s good news.

And when it does my heart races.

It races for the sunshine, it races for the clatter of banging dishes,

it races for the food FOOD FOOD!!

 

And again I am stuffed to the gills and nothing more

and it’s finally time to travel to the biggest treasure chest in the world.

About five minutes away.

We arrive.

My mother and I rap at the door.

We find no answer.

 

The small statuette of a little boy

struggling hard to keep his oversized water jug upright

keeps us company.

No answer.

And we do not give up.

The exterior of this house is rotting.

Paint failing, windows slumping, rust killing.

And the little boy struggles.

I see my mother in her panic ridden state

ready to knock down the Berlin Wall or the Great Wall of China

or any other type of wall

with her bare clenched fists.

And as if in some great breath of air

the latch gives

and we find ourselves inside the treasure chest.

 

 

 

 

And while some chests and music boxes play a twinkling reminiscing melody,

this one is silent.

The irreplaceable scent of must.

The darkness of a tomb.

And the little boy struggles.

My mom cries out like a child “Mama!?”

No answer.

I am suddenly overwhelmed by the heat.

It is as if the house had been sunbathing and fell asleep.

My heart races.

And I do not know what it is racing for.

 

She runs to the bedroom and I hear her prodding, poking at life

not ready for, nor can you ever be ready, for death.

The death of a mother and of a piece of oneself.

Never ready.

And the panicked voice moves at me like a train and grabs the phone.

A spin dial.

All her forty three years pass and she is talking to someone on the other end

and I am confused.

I want to see grandma.

And it is hot.

 

I look at my mother and at her face and at her wrinkles.

Have they gotten bigger in the past five minutes?

And she tells me to go play in the yard and I do.

I rip the lively innocent grass from it’s home in the dirt

and I pull at the dandelion weeds and I hate them.

I hate them.

And within minutes there is a big white truck

and a metal bed folds out and grandma is carried in her sleep into the truck.

And she exits with sirens blaring.

And she is the unknown star of the parade.

And the little boy struggles.

 

And after that I didn’t see grandma for a while.

But we came back to the treasure chest.

And it was not hot anymore.

We opened doors, scrubbed floors, found pictures of sandy shores.

Her life packed away in closets, in rooms.

Piles and piles of things unknown.

A life of things. Things with life.

An endless array of hat boxes, paintings, letters from sweethearts,

children’s toys, books, souvenirs from far away lands.

And the little boy struggles.

 

 

We would return home in the van now filled with her life

and I would open the drawers on the way there and shut them

and open them again.

And I would sit next to the statuette and watch the little concrete boy struggle.

Trying so hard to keep his water.

I wished I could tip the jug upright for him,

but he is concrete.

It could not be changed.

And we would talk.

We talked about the future and the past and the present.

What we’d do, what she did, and how we felt.

And we gave the treasure chest away.

 

Again we went to visit grandma, but not in the treasure chest.

Automatic doors, the smell of steamed vegetables,

cold tiles, warm bodies, cold minds.

Wheelchairs. Cries for help.

Plastic. Everything, plastic.

Rooms mirrored a kindergarten classroom.

Artwork with scribbled letters and paper hearts.

And CNN on the television.

And the more we went the more I accepted it.

She was dressed and bathed and couldn’t remember my name,

But we listened to Francis and saw her life through the piano.

A Mozart of her time.

And we celebrated birthdays and everyone came

including Irma, who stared me down and threw a cupcake in my hair.

And grandma laughed.

And we ate Thanksgiving dinner and we went to Christmas parties,

and one year grandma and her sweetheart

were crowned king and queen of the Valentine’s dance.

She was the star of her parade.

 

We were called one morning and rushed to her plastic home.

She was sick.

She couldn’t breath.

Her lips were a desert and her skin was aged like a sweet raisin.

She lay there in that bed and we cried.

And my heart raced.

And the little boy struggled.

 

 

 

 

 

And for ten days we celebrated with her.

Her life, her family.

We all came and gathered around a big table.

Young and old.

And talked about our present and our past.

But not about the future.

And we ate icecream.

And I gave grandma a kiss and said goodbye.

And after those ten days she was gone.

And we spent the days after compiling photographs and smiling.

And the water jug dropped and spilled out onto the ground

and soaked the ladybugs and ants

and gave them nourishment.

 

We drove in our time machine back to 1962

to send grandma off on her journey.

And while she lay peacefully, surrounded by flowers and family

the sirens blared outside.

Big bands, cheerleading squads, veterans in little cars, they all were there.

They all came.

A colorful scene filled with life, and hope, and happiness.

They threw candy and sang and laughed and danced.

And we watched in our sweet sadness.

And they looked back at us in our black and our white and they knew.

But they kept going

and spread candy on the ground and danced in joy.

And she was the star of the parade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Euphemism Campus Box 5555 Illinois State University Normal, IL 61790