Cinderella had a fairy for a godmother. While that sounds very exciting, I would not trade with her. My godmother is a wit, a craftswoman, a goat-keeper and a dear soul. Today, that dear soul departed, and I cannot say how much she will be missed.
I call her my godmother, but I think I always considered her a grandmother. My biological grandmothers both died before I was born, one step-grandmother died shortly after my birth. Of the other two step-grandmothers, one was kind but quiet and the other was so different from me in personality that it was difficult for us to relate. I loved them, but Anne was closer to me.
In her kitchen was a wall of what looked like ancient and cruel devices of torture. I remember playing the “what does that one do” game quite often. She would tell my brother and I “that one is a corn-sheller” or perhaps “it’s a corer,” when we asked, but she seemed endlessly amused by our more gruesome assumptions. I was obsessed with her collapsible egg-baskets for a while, and her doll-houses, and various other strange and wonderful things to be found in her house and in Doc’s shed.
Doc was her husband. I know he had a name, but I never can remember it! He was always Doc Raplee, originally our veterinarian, and always our friend. Like my father, he was a tinkerer, and unlike my father, he was a tough, gruff old country vet, a complex mix of harsh and tender. Doc died a few years ago, but tragically he was faded in mind before that. Even from the little I know, Anne’s life was not an easy one. She was often happy when I knew her, but her path was rocky.
Anne knew how to knit, and made afghans for my brother and I. She even knitted us a town and a train! I found, yesterday, a pillow she made for me with a horse on it. In my jewelry box is the white-gold heart with her tooth mark and mine in it (we were both curious children, apparently). Her corned beef and cabbage were heavenly, and her conversation was even better.
I could tell a hundred tales. I think I will make notes for myself, lest I forget them some day. For weeks I have been trying to remember the name of her old disgruntled Scottie dog. It is at the tip of my mind, but I cannot grasp it. I do remember Meg, the only collie I have ever really liked. I remember the cow… Sweet Thang, if I remember right. There were burros: Murphy’s Burro, which is funny to those of us who know Murfreesboro, and Daisy. There were also goats. Tons of goats. Anne’s Siamese cats never liked me, but then I was a small child at the time.
Anne’s home had a pond, usually overgrown with weeds, that held, for me, and endless fascination. I think it was on the hills behind that I first discovered the beauty of bones. I spent hours upon ours scouring that hill for the smooth, intricate treasures picked clean by coyotes and vultures and bleached by sun and rain. Anne never complained, at least to me, that my bone-collecting was morbid or unclean. I also loved the hills for themselves, with their old cedars and smooth limestone boulders.
I loved that place so much that, in college, years ago, I wrote this. I was assigned to write about a place.
Cedar of Lebanon
Step lightly, and watch your feet. The cows have been here and goat pellets cling to the crevices in the slope. Climb carefully from ridge to ridge on the fossil-encrusted limestone that peeks through the grass. Never walk straight. Weave. Pause and run your fingers over all that is left of this seabed. If you are lucky you will find a bone or two, picked clean by the coyotes and bleached by sun and rain. As you walk you will come to an old juniper whose roots are nestled in the smooth curve of one of the great boulders. Its shedding bark splinters off the twisting trunk like strips of peeling wallpaper until it reaches the branches, heavy with fragrant spiny leaves and dusty berries. Brace yourself, back against the trunk, foot pressed in the dip of the smooth stone and suck the air deep into your chest until it hurts. Then just sit, be silent, and let your senses bloom like dandelions. Let your hungry eyes search the cirrus clouds sweeping the sky, and dwell on the dove gray stones and the burning fall colors. Feel the sharp, resin-sweet air and the heat of the sun-warmed boulder beneath you. Taste the sun and the wind, and drink the blues and golds as wine. Crush the leaves of the juniper between your fingers and smell the age of their parent tree. Remember if they prick you, they mean no real harm. Open your ears and listen as the trees sing and the birds rustle and the limestone wears away.
I look on this passage now, and I know that it was not just the place itself that made me love it. It was the people there, who loved me. Anne, I am proud to have your name. I am glad to have known you so long, and to have been shaped by knowing you. I owe you much for the beauty, fascination, love and joy you brought to my life, though I know you would never call in the debt.
Goodbye, for now. We must all carry on in your absence. Know, however, that I intend to keep talking to you, when I need to, and I am determined to see you again, in time.