Sliver of Sky
by Terry Ratner, RN, MFA
Send comments to email@example.com
I knew ahead of time the exact route I’d take that evening. I needed no GPS or verbal directions to the restaurant where a group of writers were meeting to critique each other’s work. In fact, it was as if my vehicle knew exactly what road to take, intersections to turn at, and which side of the street I’d find the eatery. When I spotted it, my car kept going, as if programed for a certain destination I needed to revisit—a place I hadn’t seen for twelve years. A part of my earlier life crowded with memories obscured by choice.
Rush hour traffic gave me time to examine the landscape along Thunderbird. I noted the Fry’s supermarket I used to shop at had become a Super Fry’s. A group of condos, Valle Venato, still looked the same. I remember going door-to-door on a Saturday morning with my son, Sky, to pass out flyers advertising my new business: Cinderella Cleaning Service, Clean in a Day, Queen for a Day. After we distributed the ads, we stopped at a pond to catch frogs that had surfaced after a night’s rain.
Turning north on 31st avenue, I noticed rundown homes, dying desert landscapes and dehydrated lawns that could be mistaken for dirt lots. No children played outside, perhaps because it’s chilly, or maybe they were eating dinner with their parents, talking about their day.
I pass Acacia grade school on my right. The grass field, swing-sets and chain-link fence look the same. I remember taking Sky on his first day of kindergarten, watching him dart into the classroom with a quick wave goodbye and none of that crying that some kids exhibit. I flashback Halloween parades around the school parking lot where I’d try to identify children under their costumes, waving to mine as they pass by. My thoughts turn to Marty, the custodian, his smile, and how much the kids loved him. I wonder if he’s still alive.
Turning down Banff, I spot a basketball court housed inside a park. A teenager climbs up an elaborate colorful slide and sits under a blue awning talking on his cell hoping not to be seen. This is where my children and I played. It’s where I’d roller skate when they were in school and play basketball with my son or daughters on weekends. We often packed a picnic lunch and sunbathed while watching Sky play soccer. His team nicknamed him ‘lead foot.’ The park appears empty except for a mother and her young son playing catch and smiling at one another.
As I turn right on my street, Mauna Loa Lane, I think about the name. It stands for one of five volcanoes that form the Island of Hawaii. Mauna Loa is the largest volcano in both mass and volume, and has historically been considered the largest volcano on earth. It’s a name I never thought about when we first bought the house—a name that didn’t mean much until my life erupted years later. It wasn’t until my son died at the age of 25 that I disconnected myself with our home and all it represented.
This is the house my children and I grew up in. It’s where memories of youth and young mothering are imbedded. There’s the Eucalyptus in the front yard that my son planted when he was ten and the yellow rusted awnings I installed to shade the house from a western exposure. A cactus sits surrounded by desert landscape with sprouting weeds that peek through black plastic sheeting. My eyes focus on the imprint of children’s shoes leaving their mark on the gravel. A garbage bag blows into the yard and sticks to the front stucco wall like a ghost. I don’t hear the sound of children anywhere.
I peer into what used to be my son’s window through the gap of the Eucalyptus tree that was hit by lightning a year after we moved. I imagine his small face peeking out the blue and red race car print curtains.
No one comes to the window. No one notices me taking photographs. No one sees my tears.
The visit is like coming back to an old friend, something familiar. My faith in the firmness of time seems to be slipping away. Memories flash by like clips of film from unrelated movies. Somewhere in the nooks and crannies of memories, there are clues. As I chase them down, a kind of understanding and hope comes with it.