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The Weight of Shadows

by MISSY BEATTIE

Last Saturday, WidowRica and I went to Oregon Ridge Park’s Hot August Blues.  We sat among the flesh and talked about the flesh and our lives external to this particular flesh and the flesh internal to our own.  Claiming the plots were infants, toddlers, preteens, adolescents, teenagers, young adults, mid-lifers, oldies but goodies, and any age group I may have missed. Plenty of sunburns and young women in bikini tops and short skirts.  Acres of bleary-eyed, beer-guzzlers, clutching paper-plated fries and bloomin’ onions. In other words, the comedy and drama of Americana.

Bands performed on two stages beneath a cumulous-clouded sky.  During some lull, I turned, looked up the hill, and stared at a recollection:  I saw Hunter, sitting on Charles’ shoulders, John, nearby, with friends, and myself, at a fireworks display—an image powerful as a time capsule.

“Oh, Rica (oracle), I feel displaced.”

“So, we’ll make a list of venues?” she said, her accent lovely as music.

And, then: “Would you consider moving to Australia?”

“Too far away.”

Again, during Trombone Shorty’s performance, I looked back, clinging to a cache of memories.

(With that typed, I take my hands off the keyboard to rub my eyes. I begin gently, increasing the pressure to rid the lids of video reflections.)

We left just before the New Orleans, multi-talented phenomenon finished his act, possibly, worth whatever (?) else we’d sacrificed among Baltimore’s weekend activities.

Driving to the Kingdom of Cross Delusions, WidowRica and I examined and elaborated on our common feelings and antennae. We’ve discussed the loss of that hot/cold jolt to the chest when danger threatens. Illustration:  You’re on a plane that shudders or, suddenly, drops who-knows-how-many feet, and, WHAMMO, the adrenaline fight or flight slams like a freight train to your heart.  Neither of us has this survival mechanism, anymore.  Here’s WidowRica’s example: Friday morning, she was riding her bicycle, a member of Widows on Wheels (WOW), and was robbed at gunpoint.  She said no to the guy’s demand.  He shoved.  Took her bike and bag with driver’s license, credit card, bankcard, cash, cellphone, book, and sentimentally valued scarf.  And this is what she thought:  “Missy’s going to be upset that she isn’t here to die with me.”

I told son Hunter about the incident and that WidowRica and I understand each other, like conjoined twins, and he said, “But, Mom, why, then, do you worry about flies and mosquitoes, and bedbugs, and germs?”

Well, that’s simple:  I don’t want to get sick.  I don’t want the pro-long, prolongation of something nasty invading and occupying my bloodstream, intestinal tract, or respiratory system.

Anyway, I got up and ran on Sunday morning, thinking about life, love, loss, and, then, a category of stuff.  Of which I have too much. That’s it, I decided.  I’ll sell my condo and its contents, before deciding where to move. Anything I can’t separate from will be diverted to a small storage unit—the urns half full or half empty, depending on how one looks at the universe.  And, as you know, my assessment of the glass’s content changes multiple times a day, along with the color of my mood ring.  (I’m rubbing my eyes, again.)

And, suddenly, I see unopened sheets in a bag with a receipt.  Don’t need these if I’m going to put down my lendings (hit later).  “Put down your lendings, put down your lendings.” So, I drive to the store, make the return, and, of course, begin to look around. Hey, this is nifty—a pitcher with a freezable insert for cooling tea or sangria.  I take it to the register and, then, remember the purpose of the trip and that the more things I try to own, the harder it is to fall asleep.  And nights can be long.

I stop to see Laura and Erma, just back from a trip to Kentucky.   “This is E. J.,” Laura introduces, pointing to a kitten.  “A brother for Maggie Mae.”

“There goes the sisterhood, but you should’ve named him E. E., so we could say, ‘E. E., come in.’”

My “personal trainer,” who’s told me I use humor as a deflector, now, is emphasizing that we’re the architects of our own lives.  I think about this. I know I need to remove some walls, dig deeply, and restructure. Really, I pay attention to his words, because I’m desperate to build something monumentally strong (and portable) to bear the weight of shadows.

Missy Beattie wants to put down her lendings.  Email:  missybeat@gmail.com.

 

 

 

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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