Our next guest post comes from a woman who, until recently, lived in my neck of the woods. For some reason I’d always thought she was an ASU student. Her blog posts were always entertaining and well written, so it only seemed logical to me. Soon enough Fate saw fit to allow me to actually meet this wonderful young talent.
She goes by the moniker of the little red writer, and you can find her blog of the same name here on WordPress. She’s unassuming, genuinely smart, and even though she may never outwardly admit it, also a hopeless romantic. Yes, Ms. McKenzie Boltz, it’s easy enough to spot one when you are one yourself!
I invited Kenzie to join our weekly East Valley Writers Group at a time when her life was suddenly turned upside down, and am pleased to report that she is every bit as charming as her blog entries imply. We have very much enjoyed having her join us as we share our writing efforts, and then of course for the social meet at Village Inn afterward.
When I asked her to write a guest post she had rather suddenly learned she would be moving back home, but readily agreed to write one anyway. I had every confidence she’d come up with something good, but also understood that she had a lot going on, so it might be short, or maybe (gasp!) not up to her usual quality . . . and I was okay with that, given her circumstances.
She sent it to me with the caveat that she wasn’t sure if it was what I wanted, and that she’d been very busy while writing it, what with packing, etc. She seemed almost apologetic.
I wrote her back later and expressed the following sentiment: “Kenzie, I think this may be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read that you have written.”
Read on . . . I’m sure you’ll feel much the same way.
I think differently of the seasons now that you’re gone. I never considered them much before – - the depth and beauty in each. You left mid-autumn, when the trees were ripe with red and orange leaves, burning against the evening sun. The deadened ground crunched beneath our Sunday shoes; the bitter breeze flushed our cheeks and hands.
I wiped my eyes, and held Grandpa’s hand. I missed you. I missed your brown curls and heavy sighs, your gold wrist watch and soft skin smelling faintly of Mary Kay. I missed you. My tears said so. But my heart felt at peace, for the words impressed upon me, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”
You never wished for us to cry, only to be happy – - to embrace life together, and here was autumn, a time of harvest, of gathering. “It will be strange,” I told Shalyn, “not having her here this time of year.”
Shalyn smiled. “She’s here, just in spirit.”
“Too bad her spirit can’t make apple and pumpkin pie,” I marked, and we both began to laugh and cry, but mostly laugh. I could picture you, shaking your head, wagging your finger. I also pictured you in the kitchen, hands white with flour, the smell of warm cinnamon spice in the air. For a moment, I was a little girl at your side, watching your rail-thin arms flex as your hands pressed into a slab of dough. “What do you like most ‘bout Thanksgiving, Grandma?”
“Certainly not the baking, honey-bun, but you know what they say – - no rest for the wicked!” you teased, and paused to answer more seriously, “Family. I love my kids and grandkids and great-grand-babies. I love loving you, and I love knowing you all love me.”
Thanksgiving was different without you – - without poppy-seed cake, the pies, and homemade whipped cream; without the ho-hum of your voice, the laughter in your expression, as you began to clear away dishes, saying, “Time for the next holiday!”
Oh, but we celebrated you, not mourned! Together, like always, we named our blessings over the past year, you amongst them all. Over turkey and cranberry, we reminisced: pink mints in the bottom of your coat pocket, birthday cards and gypsy beads, volumes of old photos post-WWII, and your love of pink peonies.
And when Christmas came, I half-expected to find you busy about the tree: organizing presents, fixing a bulb, just admiring. But the tree stood alone. With its miniature colored lights, vintage ornaments, and tin star – - it stood alone, looked alone.
Grandpa slipped his arm around my waist. “You know, when she was a young thing like you, her hair was just as red.”
I smiled, thinking of the old black and white photo – - your hair in pin curls, your eyes aglow with laughter, a ball of snow in your hands. Grandpa knelt by your side, handsome and promising in his uniform, and baffled that you might actually clobber him!
You are gone, but so much of you lingers. Like the dark, shag carpet you never wanted to get rid of, because, “It’s just fine!” Or the turn-of-the-century wallpaper, a print of red flowers between faded lines. There are boxes of letters, all lavish with your bubble script, and a jacket – - your blue jacket – - lying over the arm of a chair. And here, on the tree, the old vintage ornaments passed down mother to child, mother to child.
Standing there, admiring the glass, oval bulbs and twinkling lights, I wanted to ask Grandpa if he remembered the blue-spotted bird’s egg, because I do. We found it one morning in the park, hiding in the long grass. He said not to touch it, because it was too fragile, and the egg had yet to hatch. So we just stared, admiring its simple beauty, wondering how something so small could hatch and fly free – - wings stretched against the sky.
That egg reminds me of you, now free and soaring.
And though I cannot see you, as the leaves turn from green to gold, and the cold air draws in loved ones for holiday warmth – - I think of you, I feel you, and I know you are a part of the gathering – - laughing and smiling with us in spirit.