Pictures were important to Amy. They hung on every wall in careful proportion and taste, adding that sense of memory to the house. Her children would come in and look at them, appropriately laughing or standing in silence before them. But now she held her breath. She had a task set, but her mind raced with thoughts, distracting her from the computer screen that sat expectantly before her. She willed her gnarled fingers to move, but nothing happened. What was she supposed to write about? Fiction or nonfiction? A mix of both? What about her life? No one would want to hear about that; it’s just dull, colorless, everyday activities. Although… her life hadn’t been entirely uneventful.
Her memory flitted from one significant day to the next, the images in her mind resembling the camera roll on her phone; vivid, just a tad bit messy, but, oh, so fun!
Old melodies from her childhood echoed their familiar tunes winding about her head, and slowly but surely, the blurry forms of the past were sewn together, and something clicked. Amy’s fingers flew across the keyboard, not letting the glaring red lines beneath her mistakes intimidate her. She began at the beginning, or as far as she could, sweeping up all the most lovely scenes.
There she stood, encompassed by the feathery pink fabric in her grandma’s attic. Mary was there, too. Her cousin and best friend since birth--for all of their seven years--landed a wide brim hat on her head. Amy giggled and twirled, imagining herself a beautiful princess in front of her courtiers. Mary had stuffed her dark brown hair into a faded turban her grandfather had found in Arabia and strided forward, hands in front of her, and asked in her deepest, most royal voice, “My lady, the Princess Amy, I have come from far away to dance with you and ask you to be my bride.” Thank goodness Mary was always up for playing the boy part; Amy never knew how to act or what to say. But this time she was concerned with other matters. “Mary!” She hissed loudly. “You need that necklace--and that feather! You are the prince.”
“Right, right,” agreed the small figure swallowed in rich fabrics as she bent down to scoop up the faux jewels that lay scattered on the floor. After fumbling with the large violet feather that had come off an old masquerade mask, Mary stood up straight and satisfied, and asked the “Princess Amy” to dance, or marry her, again. This time rolled smoothly, and the prince from Arabia, and the princess from France were promptly wedded after a clumsy ceremonial dance.
Now Amy once again stood in the company of Mary, but also in the company of the tree-people. At age eleven, she had been told by certain peers that she could not have possibly read Tolkien or Lewis, and defiantly she had shoved the book in her face, and multiple sketches of helmets, elves, trees, and swords that she was rather proud of. So here she was, both hands gripping the sturdy, ladder-like branches of Persiphone, the towering cedar tree that overlooked the lake.
Above her, Mary peered out from her concealed perch. “Mary, move your foot! I’m trying to get higher.” Amy’s muffled voice protested through the leaf that had fallen in her mouth and was helpless to remove. “I am,” was the reluctant response that followed the slight relocation of Mary’s foot. Pushing herself up, Amy grinned widely at what she saw. She climbed still higher, above her cousin, to find the perfect viewpoint. Being quite satisfied with the opening in the branches and the sturdy arrangement of branches, Amy seated herself and began her work of capturing the image forever. The whole expanse of the lake lay below her, here dotted with water lilies, there the refuge of young geese and ducks.
The forest of lily pads that covered large sections of the surface had been so huge to Amy from the small beach, and seemed so tiny now among the tree-people. Persephone was the strongest and the tallest. Gale was the one who waved his branches in the wind, and Lilith made the most interesting shadows for her at night. Sometimes she would talk with them, and sometimes she would just sit in their branches, looking down on everything else that before seemed to loom above her.
Amy wrote about the memories she had of meeting two of her best friends, Sydney and Ella. Their adventures together, whether it be discovering the stream leading to the lake when they were younger, or roaming the mall when they grew older, still held hours worth conversation material. A time when they had dressed themselves up as gypsies--or hippies, as a passer-by pointed out--using old, rich-colored scarves and fabrics and paraded about town was yet another high.
The endless sleepovers, coffee dates, paddle days and out-of-town excursions that filled Amy’s memory of her teenage year found themselves in proper order and description on her screen. Taking a break to stretch her fingers, she stood up to help herself to a glass of water. Her eyes still sparkled as she sipped, and her line of thought continued on until she slowly took the glass from her lips and glanced at her black skirt before turning her gaze to a framed picture above her dining room table.
The picture depicted yet another memory, one far dearer in many senses than the other ones that had recalled themselves so far. Two figures stood on a bridge, the young woman’s back against the rickety railing adorned in white pearls and lace. The man’s arms lay protectively around her waist as he smiled softly and apparently gazed into her eyes. Late summer flowers bloomed in the background above the stream and beyond the bridge. Some excited faces of bridesmaids and groomsmen peeked from behind a tree, evidently spying on the happy couple. The scene spoke of joy in every sense of the word, and brought tears of happiness...and of sorrow to Amy’s eyes. Her reflection in the glass of the picture stared silently and a bit longingly at herself.
Her silver hair, no longer a fiery red, was pulled loosely into a knot that said she didn’t care. Her once-clear skin was riddled with wrinkles, and her starry grey eyes that once held so much color and emotion now looked watery and pale against her yellowing whites.
As for the other figure in the picture, the one with the wavy, raven-black hair that smiled lovingly down on his bride… he was dead. Taken in one fell swoop of lung cancer. So much, it seemed, was lost since that day. Family still surrounded Amy, her son called every day. Chris, named for his father, was as valiant as a knight of old, at least to her. He was the reason she had sat down with her fingers on the keyboard again; it was no secret she was aging, and with Alana due in just a week, he wanted something for his child. Equally, she could admit, she wanted something for her granddaughter to remember her by. Something that would give her a little truth and a little brightness from reading it. But what to do? Would this baby find what she wrote encouraging? Intriguing? Would she ask for more? Would she even know her grandma that loved her even now before she was born?
Amy slid back into her seat and stared at the screen. She would finish it. And something inside her knew, that with these pages, these scenes, this book of memories, she had the opportunity for little Amelia to know her, and for her to give just a little more wisdom before she left. Because no matter how much the past could hurt, it could always give a little life, sometimes just enough to keep going.