A short story about memories
“One, two, three, four, five,” I can still hear my mom say in the kitchen while counting crackers and packing them into our lunch bags before we left for school. I stare at the poor family in northwest Oklahoma from the top branch of the black walnut tree. The tree used to be my favorite place in the world, and that, to my surprise, I can still climb.
“ Can I have six crackers?” I can hear my brother ask.
“ If you have six, then your sister only has four. Help me get the peanut butter.”
This was a common scene for the first twelve years of my life. That kitchen table. The three of us counting crackers to dip in store-brand peanut butter while getting ready for the day.
I can still see them, the eight-year-old me with curly auburn hair, the ten-year-old skinny Tommy, my brother, and my apathetic, overworked, and tired mom. I can still see them through the now broken kitchen window of the abandoned ranch, moving around, getting supper, counting crackers, planning meals, and getting ready for church.
Twenty-five years later, it sometimes feels like it was all a dream. A faded memory.
But the branch of the old black walnut tree still feels real. The texture hasn’t changed a bit. The branch feels a bit looser, and it bounces more, but it could also be because I am bigger now. The color changed — it looks faded at the ends, but it’s still firm and strong. Loyal. Real.
This walnut tree that faced the back of our old rancher had been my refuge, my fortress. In the summer, it would be so supple that I could easily hide amongst the branches and leaves for hours, and sometimes for the whole day. Through that tree, I experienced so many events. So many emotions.
I was sitting on those branches when I saw mom secretly take Blackie, my first dog, to the vet and never return with it again. I was also there when dad left us, only taking two work briefcases with his clothes while mom cried in the kitchen. I was also there when the ladies from church left bags of donations on our front porch. Clothes, food. And then as they left, they would whisper, “poor lady, who would want to be married to someone so unstable?”