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"Losing the Ring in the River"
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“Once exposed, a secret loses some of its power.” – Ann Aguirre, author
Willa Cather wrote about the double life that exists in families: the group life and the one underneath that is – “…secret, and passionate and intense…” She calls this one the real life and it can exist between many relationships, a loving husband and wife, adoring sisters, and children and their grandmother. In these relationships, she continues, “…there are innumerable shades of sweetness and anguish.” When I think about my real life relationship with Grandma M, it is all sweetness for a long time. Soothing hands that rub my sore legs at night. Special doll quilts fashioned just for me. But things one fall day start to change. Grandma told me she didn’t want to play in the hayloft any more and watch the sparrows make crazy loops in the dusty air. Earlier that morning, she couldn’t find her favorite blue housedress. And then, the same day, she burned the bacon.
“This is the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, the Gold Rush Trail, the transcontinental railroad. This is the way west. The Via Appia of Nebraska. “ – Alexander Payne, writer and director of the movie, “Nebraska,” reflects as he follows the Platte River in a road trip across the state.
Road trips. Ah, yes, we all remember them, especially in the summer, cruising along on back roads, two lane highways, hair flying, faces flushed. Windows rolled down, interior of the car like a vacuum, sucking in the hot, sticky air. Every year, our family, in mid-July, piled into our car taking a road trip either to South Dakota or Colorado. The timing was crucial – always following the end of the wheat harvest so Dad was in a place he could relax a bit. He’d hang his straw hat darkened with sweat and rich brown top soil on the hall tree, talk with Louie our neighbor about doing chores, asking him not to call us unless there was an emergency. When we pulled out of our driveway, Dad would look in the rear view mirror, squinting like you do when you want to hold on to things, taking a picture in his mind he could blink on and off when he missed home.
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