Even the fireflies have stopped blinking, the chiminea’s summer blaze is cooling and I’m grateful to be in this company.
19 hours of driving from Dallas has dropped me here at my aunt’s Virginia home. We’re tucked under old hickory trees and the laughter of women flutters into the dark.
And I’m sitting here wondering, when did we lose this?
This passing down of stories. These tears shed in some kind of unexpected holy moment. I feel appropriately unqualified to speak.
I just listen.
It’s the three of them. Sisters. My mother and aunts. It’s a couple cousins. We who have traveled countrywide to land back here on this Blue Ridge mountain deck.
The reasons that brought us here to this back street are different, but the things that bind us are the same.
Wounds that gave us bleeding hearts of compassion and mercy. We bare our souls to one another, and balm is spread thick and slow like honey. The oldest says the taboo and we laugh so hard, my own mother can barely catch her breath.
Somewhere along the way, life just got too busy.
I know I am, too self-absorbed that is.
My days are spent working the system, from diapers to laundry to paying the bills, and a deep sense of “I’m alone” settles in as I drift off to sleep. The world feels too big. The tasks too daunting. I begin to wonder if the hardest things have been left for me to tackle.
Just me and myself.
Somewhere along my journey, I’ve allowed myself to believe that doing things with my own strength was impressive. That somehow, my knowledge was enough to push me onto the finish line.
Until I trip and skin my knees, and wonder why no one warned me about that very, obvious bump in the road.
But now I see them. Lucy giggles, now in her twilight years, she tells me how she sat in a tree, begging God to release her from her father’s pressure to be a nun. My cousin, who is now raising pre-teens, pulls down her shirt to reveal a fresh tattoo on her shoulder. We giggle with our unconventional commonality. One aunt marks her claim to blazing new trails. My mother remembers her college years, and then raising toddlers and road trips.
The loneliness echoes faintly, it’s tiny talons feel less strangling.
We tell stories because as women, and ultimately, as humans, we really just want to know that we’re not alone. There’s this thing deep within me that needs to know they know. That when I say, “I’m tired” or “I’m scared,” they’ll meet me with steady eyes. It’s their earned job after all.
They get to say, “Been there, done that.”
The matriarchs sweep in, lifting our weary arms to remind us what helpmates look like. What princesses and queens fought for. What dreamers still dream within our fragile hearts.
The laughter dies down, and we give a final nod as each one wraps her robe for goodnight.
The night is nearly silent until Lucy wraps an arm around me.
“Go to bed. It’s past your bedtime.”