"I'll bake you a cake! What kind do you want?" she asked.
"Do you know how to make my mama's applesauce raisin?" I wondered (because my whole life is pretty much about trying to score apple cake or bread from someone who loves me), and she laughed and said no but that she'd call Mom for the recipe.
Jim took the day off work; I pulled Cade from school; and the six of us made the two-hour drive to Massanutten. Aunt Ellie's been spending a chunk of April in one particular Massanutten villa most all my life. Back in the day, she and my grandparents had back-to-back weeks; I can't walk in without seeing Grandma and Grandad at the table, a board game at their elbows.
It all comes back in a rush, how my favorite thing as a little girl was the generous hot tub of the villa. We'd don our bathing suits and climb in, four or five of us at a time. At thirteen, I started my period for the very first time in that villa, and I remember fretting that, in their excitement, the women would tell Grandad my business. Funny how times have changed; I'll share with just anyone, now: I was days from turning thirteen, and praise be that my body has bled and borne so well.
On my twenty-fifth birthday, I conceived Cade in the villa. The story (in all its irony) goes that his dad had been transferred from Dallas to close-by Harrisonburg, and--since the villa was standing empty during her week--my aunt passed me her key. Jason and I ending up buying a five-bedroom, brick cape cod in the railroad town just behind Massanuttten; we had an amazing, back-deck view of its ski runs. It was the house to which we brought home our baby, the house in which Cade reached many of his earliest milestones.
I'm a little surprised, writing this, that I feel no sadness in my aunt's villa, but no: only blessed history. Only joy in seeing Jim puttering around the applesauce-raisin-cake-smelling kitchen; Cade and Daniel fishing golf balls out of the stream just like my brother and I used to do; my little daughters chasing Madison up the steps and peeking down through the rails on the balcony; Chip finding great amusement in the low thrum of the door stop on a spring.
When we left the villa, the moon sat near and red in the sky. Blood moon, they call it, and at points it looked as though we might drive straight into it. I thought of Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon: another gift from Aunt Ellie, who bought the book for my brother when he was a little boy. When Harold journeys home, he remembers: his window is the one with the moon just outside of it. On my fortieth birthday, the moon became a marker for me, too.
At forty, I know the unspeakable pleasures between the dropping of the crayon (or, in this case, my hair clip) and the dropping off to sleep. I've never loved the bones of another like I've loved those of my husband. I'm forty, and I'm on fire. I'm forty, and if it were my time I would die satisfied, but I'm just as glad to live on. I'm barreling into the blood moon, and in this moment, at least, I'm wholly unafraid.
|Photo by Anjie Kay|