Sunday, December 16, 2007

drive by christmas

It was a good trip, the Drive By Christmas. I gave my son his scrapbook and he was properly surprised and pleased to have it. I think he even teared up a little bit. We drove house to house, leaving tiny gifts of homemade blackberry jam wrapped in red cotton dishtowels; red metal stars and red rubber spatulas that I found at Winco and love to cook with.

It was good to see everyone, and it is good to be home.

I like being a passenger, in so many ways, but on these trips south, then north again, I am able to reminisce as we pass places for the many-th time, places so embedded in memory that they seem at times part of a movie set. As I age, and as places age and change, I am moved at the impermanence of things: of the many tractors along the road, of Mexia's -- a roadside cafe or tavern or inn, one that captured my imagination every time I passed it on the freeway headed north. It was a tall white clapboard house with a vertical sign that you could just see through the trees. A poorly marked exit leads to it, but I have never taken that exit. I was always afraid to. Mexia's, in my imagination, was a satin-lined brothel, a roadside oasis, brownskinned women more beautiful than I've ever been, with ivory hair picks holding back flowing locks of black hair. As I passed what is left of Mexia's, I wondered at my memories, of my fear of beauty and its unwieldy power and my unwillingness to allow reality to alter memory.

Driving through the Applegate, seeing the barns that finally finally finally came down as though somehow they would not, that somehow they would remain, that my memories would be enough to hold the sagging timbers intact until I no longer needed to see them as they had always been, always and never falling for these long fifty years now, as though the landscape existed only for my entertainment. And we passed Roy Winningham's green house, built for him by his brother Dave who is in his 90's now, and Roy is gone I'm almost certain, the retarded younger brother, who lived in his own house on the edge of the meadow and helped tend the cattle across from McKee Bridge. I remember those old men. Dave, who talked slowly and could play horseshoes like nobody else. He was a patient man, as ranchers can be, men who live by the movement of seasons and light, who are not pushed by artificial time or held back by manufactured misery. Not modern.

But I always thought Roy's house would be there, and I always thought there would be people at McKee Bridge who remembered the stories Dave told. And they are mostly gone. As I packed away my son's scrapbook, and tucked the genealogy of these people, the Applegate pioneers, my son's people, into the back cover, I was glad I had made some record of a time gone by: loggers and ranchers, men who needed alot of room to live.

As I grow old behind them, it is terrifying to think that the time is passing, that I have lived in log cabins and hauled water from a creek and know how to use kerosene and clean a lamp globe without burning myself or breaking it. So much is behind me, and the terror, I suspect, is that there is less in front. I am in awe of my life, and the people and the history who have touched it. There is nothing to regret.


msb said...

I love your stories Judy.

Anonymous said...

and everything to savor.