With long, sweeping strokes, I bathe and caress you. Your faded beauty awakens and transforms; once again your organic contours take life in my hands. It is a ritual years in the making. I am finally ready to embrace our history together.
I return the washing rag to its bowl; the water runs dark-rust sepia. You have been ignored and wished for, for so long, and this is not dirt that I carry from you to the sea. Rather, it is the nuances of memories; of DNA, of jam-sticky fingerprints, of all the now-gone hands and fingers that caressed you long before my time. You have gathered and held them tight, through times of abuse, neglect and upheaval. You remember more than I will ever know, and my heart leaps as I recall the exquisite moments we’ve shared.
My mother, at Christmas, opening my gift of the Burt Reynolds-era Playgirl magazine. Raising her palms to her cheeks in mock embarrassment, and laughing until she cried. In her fuzzy pink housecoat, her hair still long and auburn brown. Then opening the centerfold, and repeating her act all over again.
Tim, talking and rocking, with Crown Royal and ginger threatening to spill from a gas-station old-fashioned tumbler. Telling us the joke about the varmint who shot his paw. Telling it a hundred times and we’d still wait for the punch line.
Chris, from Pennsylvania, visiting for a wedding, his legs crossed at the ankles, sipping hot black coffee. Years earlier, he married my friend Diane. Amongst an army of Jack-Daniels-chugging bikers, I was welcomed with raised eyebrows as the lone punk rocker, Diane’s friend from Canada. That reception ended with gunfire, and the new bride and I slept at her parents’ house on wedding night.
Me. Little me. Jumping into your arms and holding you so tight while we watched the latest episode of Petticoat Junction. My mom always said it was the train whistle that set me off, that when I heard the chug-chug-chug of the train on the track, I leapt in and rode you like my own locomotive.
I smile as I run my fingertips over your perfect imperfection, your scars, your time-worn edges. I love you. I am so grateful that your arms are still strong, that you can still carry me. I recall a year ago, when I gently brushed my mother’s silver hair, long again after many years. When I gently caressed her feet and hands; when I cleaned her face with a soft washing cloth. Her still-sparkling eyes reflecting the love ignored and wished for, for so long.
When we move to the new house, back to Barrie, you will return with me. Today and forever, I will breathe new life into you. Most guests will see you as an old-fashioned rocking chair, an outdated antique from years gone by. For me, you’ll be my mom; you’ll be Tim, Chris, my brother back from university, little me. I can’t wait to be embraced again. For something so full, I know you still have lots of room.