Pink Lemonade and a LessonbyEmeraldKitten©
Spring was trying to arrive. The grass was becoming greener, buds were coming to life on the trees, and there was a twinge of new life in the air. Suzanne rounded the curves on the old road like a pro; she'd been driving them for eleven years. She was able to take in the scenery since her hands on the wheel were on auto-pilot. When the cluster of trees came into focus, she was just one curve away from home.
Suzanne took her foot off the accelerator and let her car coast to a stop in front of the driveway. Turning on her hazard lights, she stepped from her warm car into the wind that still held a chill of winter. She always swore the air was cleaner here, better here. It cleared your mind and nurtured you.
She took a few deep breaths and held them, willing herself to look up. With her eyes closed, she lifted her head and turned her face towards the house. Long lashes fluttered open and she gazed upon the barren landscape.
Suzanne still wasn't used to seeing...nothing. Where grand old oak trees used to stand, there was emptiness. Where fences used to cut across the property, there was loneliness. Where the old house graced the top of a light hill, there was silence.
The wind gusted and forced Suzanne's jacked against her frame. Tucking her hands deep into her pockets, she picked her way through the mud and the rocks. She went as far as she could before melted snow formed a barricade of puddles that stopped her. She thought if she stared long enough, and hard enough, she would will the house and trees and fences back into existence. Deep inside her heart of hearts, she knew it wasn't to be. That chapter was over, that era a closed book stuffed high on a shelf.
Coming here was at once healing and hurtful. She needed to see it was gone, but she wanted her memories kept alive. Suzanne went back to her car and climbed in, turning the heat up and angling the vents towards her. Still, she stared at the homestead and wished things never had to change.
She finally rested her head against the headrest and closed her eyes, bringing the last summer of memories back to life.
Suz had driven to her grandma's for some rest and relaxation. She had the whole weekend to soul search and decide on the path she would choose for herself. With the mid-summer sun beating on her head, she took a walk around the property. It was amusing to think back on years past, and remember bits and pieces of her life. In the far lot, she could see herself mowing. Right there at that pear tree, she saw herself climbing, then getting scared and just wedging herself between it's branches.
She'd grown up here, grew like a wildflower in the middle of nowhere. The only problem was, her great-grandma wasn't well, and the day would eventually come when this place was no more. Suz shook her head and let those dismal thoughts disappear. Today wasn't the day, so she wasn't going to worry with it.
An hour or so later, the sun began it's slow descent into the horizon. Shadows grew longer, and Suz headed back up towards the house. Her hair was damp, tendrils sticking to her neck and making her uncomfortable. At least the heat of the day was taking its leave as well. Using her hands, she raked all the hair off her neck, and held it up into a ponytail while she finished the walk.
"It's too hot to be doin' that much walkin'." Her great-grandma cackled as she approached.
"You're telling me. I bet I lost ten pounds today just sweating." Suz stepped onto the porch and dropped a kiss to the top of Mawma's head. She smelled like VO5 shampoo and regular chap stick. The smells brought a smile to Suz's face.
"Did I ever tell you about your great-grandpa?"
"Hmm, no, not really."
"Go get yourself some pink lemonade and come back out and sit a spell."
Suz obeyed, and as she walked through the back hall her brow wrinkled. Mawma didn't usually volunteer information about her husband. She'd held her memories tightly to her heart and didn't let anyone see them. If she was ready to talk about it, Suz was more than ready to listen. At ninety-four, who knew how much longer they'd have her.
She made a pitcher of pink lemonade, and brought it out to the porch. After pouring herself a glass and topping Mawma's off, Suz settled into the patio chair to listen.
"Del was a handsome man. I'd always thought so. His daddy worked our farm, and he'd come and help. By the time I was fourteen, I knew I was gonna marry him. I was right." A smile lit up her wrinkled face.
"I've seen pictures. He was handsome." Suz smiled and sipped her drink. She ran the glass across her forehead, beating the heat that still lingered.
"I was eighteen when he asked. Did you know he was twelve years older than me? Well, he was, and he said that we were gonna have a farm of our own. He bought this land, and him and his brother's and daddy built this house. In 1946." Mawma's eyes had a faraway look, like she was watching them nail up the siding.
"He bought the cows, and just like that," she snapped her gnarled fingers, "we had a dairy farm. Oh, it was hard work. By then, we had all three of the girls. I think he was always a little disappointed that we didn't have a boy to help. But he loved them girls."
"Grandma has always told me the story about him taking her to town on Saturdays and giving her a nickel and letting her buy candy."
"Oh yes. I loved Del more than all the stars in the sky. He was my first love; my true love. We worked hard but we played harder. The girls helped until they married and moved off. He'd always had those damn seizures, some were just worse than others. And back then, what did they know?" Her smile faded to a frown.
"Want some more?" Suz held up the pitcher. She felt that Mawma needed a moment to gather herself. The old woman gave a nod.
"He died in '57. Twenty-nine years is all we had together. Your grandma, the youngest, was only twelve. Oh, she loved him so. And it broke her heart. Kathy and Anne were already out of the house. Have you ever heard how he died?" Mawma turned her watery blue eyes to Suz.
"He was having a seizure, wasn't he?"
"Oh yes. We'd have to lay down plastic, and a blanket, and put him on it. Tied his hands and feet to the corners of furniture to keep him from thrashing around and hurting himself. I'd have to pry his jaw open and stick a pill bottle between his teeth so he wouldn't bite off his tongue. It was terrible." Mawma pushed her index fingers beneath her glasses and wiped at her eyes. Running her tongue over her teeth, she lifted her glass and took a sip of her drink.
"Well. He seized and seized. I called the doctor. He got here, and there wasn't anything he could do, really. It was too late. When Del quit shaking I thought it was over. The seizure, I mean. But it was really over. He was gone."
Mawma's hand shook as she lifted her glass again, and Suz heard it clink against her teeth. She reached and laid her hand over Mawma's, and they sat in silence for a minute.
"Frannie, she was crying her eyes out at the top of the stairs. She'd called her sisters, and they got there...I honestly don't remember the rest of the day. I remember sitting down in my chair, and I don't think I moved for hours. The girls milked the cows, and they got Frannie to bed. Still I sat in the chair, staring at the floor. He died in the living room. I do remember thinking, 'how am I ever going to live in this room again?' But life goes on, even when you don't want it to."
Frannie was Suz's grandma. She remembered her telling about sitting at the top of the stairs, holding onto the last nickel her dad had given her. Now almost fifty years later, her grandma still had it.
Mawma got a hold of herself and finally spoke again.
"I worked this farm by myself. I got Frannie through school. She got married. I was getting a little old to be running this farm by myself, so I sold the cows. Oh, I loved my cows. I named them all...they were like my pets. But I just couldn't do it anymore. It was 1963. I was fifty-three years old, and felt every bit of it. I'd put in a whole lifetime of work in those years."
"I bet. That was hard work with people helping, let alone trying to do it by yourself." Suz took a drink and watched the sun slip farther and farther down the sky.
"Well. I took comfort in knowing my first love was my last. I never looked at another man. I took the money from the cows and put myself through nursing school. I worked as a nurse until I retired. It was a different kind of hard work."
"I never knew that." Suz was surprised. That was a part of history left buried with her great-grandpa.
"Yep. So I guess if you're going to take any lessons from this... Love with all your heart Suz. Don't give small fractions of yourself to someone. You've gotta give it all. And if they're right for you, they can handle it. Work hard. Keep your body and mind active. If ya don't, you're sunk."
"Thank you, Mawma, for sharing with me. I think this was a story I needed to hear." She stood and gave the older lady a hug.
"I'm not going to be around much longer. I've lived alone for a lot more years than I got to be with my Del, so I'm ready." Her weathered eyes lit into a smile. "And I bet I get to see my cows too."
"I don't doubt it." Suz felt tears sting her eyes. What a love they had. Mawma was looking forward to death so she could be with her one and only. She guessed it was selfish of them to want to keep her around forever. She had something better to go to...a healthy body, a healthy mind, (though it wasn't bad now), and a man who loved her.
The sun disappeared, leaving them bathed in a soft purpley-peach hues. As Suz watched, she realized Mawma's face was painted in colors of anticipation.
"And just remember Suz, there's nothing pink lemonade can't fix."
Tears of joy and pain ran down Suz's face in her car as she stared at the spot where the porch should have been. It had been several years, and as the family watched the property go through it's changes, each one had been harder than the last. Now, as she wiped her eyes, Suz was suddenly glad the house and everything with it was gone.
The farm was in heaven with Mawma and her husband. And their cows. And she bet Mawma was sitting on her porch right now, drinking pink lemonade.