It’s the sun… (Goddess Grove, Ch. 10)
“Mommy! It’s the sun!”
I welcomed Meghan into my bed drowsily, slowly awaking to my Monday. Kids don’t have school. Aaron’s bringing brunch. Grandma’s here. She snuggled into my arms, just like she did when she was a baby, when she couldn’t sleep anywhere but in my arms. I soaked in her sweet smell, the way you sniff your favorite food just before you eat it, knowing how much you’ll miss it once it’s gone.
“I dreamed about a pony!”
“Oh really?” A yawn crept up on me, and I hoped this would be one of her shorter tales.
“Yeah! And a rainbow!”
I smiled and kissed her cheeks.
“Who’s sleeping in the li-bary?”
“Yeah, the li-bary!”
My curious cat, she was so eager to know, so blind to my corrected pronunciation.
“Well, let’s go see! Then maybe you can help me pick a flower for the kitchen table.”
Meghan decided she would try on some of my shoes while I went to the bathroom. My slump over the bathroom sink made me second-guess this new living arrangement, this addition to my morning responsibilities. Grandma. We didn’t get home until after two A.M., and of course Meghan had to wake up at seven A.M. sharp, as she did every morning. Pulling a robe around me, I already smelled coffee. Zoraida must have sensed my lethargy.
Meghan and I tiptoed, just like she learned in one of her books, into the li-bary and found Grandma fast asleep on our daybed. I put my index finger to my mouth and gave Meghan the shh sign. “Remember Grandma?” I whispered. She nodded, hopping like a bunny as she followed me out to the kitchen.
These moments of cuteness with Meghan were becoming more rare, as I watched her stretch from toddler to big girl. Wes, in all his wisdom, wanted Meghan in preschool to ‘get a head start.’ As if any child ever had a more meaningful life because they attended early preschool.
“But why is Grandma here?” The question was a mystery to solve, her index finger held up to the corner of her mouth as she pondered the puzzle.
“Grandma is going to live with us now.” She seemed satisfied, more interested in her own questions than the answers, then looked over at Zoraida. Finished newspapers free up space for toddlers, so Zoraida was learning.
“Will Zoraida live with us too?” She threw herself into Zoraida’s legs. “She plays games with me!”
I had mentioned no video games or iPad before I left last night. My concerned face, which at that hour probably just looked like a hangover, glanced up at Zoraida. Scowling Mom, disheveled hair. What a sight.
“We played scavenger hunt. Shannon got to practice her writing and Meghan got to help look for each item.” Zoraida, clearly captivated by my little angel smiling at her, seemed to be just the babysitter I had been looking for. Minus the witchcraft, of course. You can’t have it all.
“And what items did you hunt?” I asked cautiously, liberally dumping sweetener into my coffee mug. I imagined the kids hunting down eye of newt and monkey brains, Zoraida mixing it all into a bubbling cauldron. The three of them could practice a scene from Macbeth. I chuckled at the thought as I glanced over at Zoraida, knowing that she was nothing like those images I had of witches. Still. What did she do?
“We found a heart bracelet!” Meghan offered. I nodded in approval, grateful that Zoraida had engaged the kids in something other than television.
“Mostly it was whatever Shannon thought of,” Zoraida brushed her hand over her Coatlicue necklace, then tapped at it, as if I hadn’t yet seen it. “Thank you again for this. I think it will do us some good.”
“Well, I’m glad you like it, and thank you for babysitting.” The hot coffee flowed into my mug, the strong smell begging me to wake up a little more. Restless Meghan went outside to pick which flower would go in the vase: Purple today, Mommy! The little green vase was a craft Shannon had made at school last year, a fact she never let us forget. We kept a fresh flower in it to enjoy while we ate around the table, now with two more women to gather around with us. Two more to squeeze into my already too-small kitchen.
Meghan handed me the very delicate purple crocus she had picked before asking to watch a cartoon. Her little bare feet ran to the living room while she sang “I. get. a. cartoon. I. get. a. cartoon.”
“Only one!” I called out after her. “You wanna have coffee with me out on the porch? Before Grandma’s up?” I offered this to Zoraida, knowing she wouldn’t turn down coffee, or conversation for that matter.
My lovely porch, my escape from anything, wrapped around the southern and western walls of the house. I could enjoy my flower garden without getting fully dressed. I could watch the rain without getting wet. I could sit alone without, well, without feeling so dreadfully alone. Zoraida poured her own cup of coffee, sugar and cream again, then joined me on the porch.
We were like that then, Zoraida and I, falling into the patterns of an old married couple. Coffee. Porch. Newspaper. We even had the shuffle down, barely picking up our feet at the door mat.
I focussed on the small corner of my flower garden that I devoted to native plants and again marveled that the asters had bloomed so early, several months too early in fact. Global warming crossed my mind, but this spring had not been any different than other springs; only my garden was behaving bizarrely. We settled into our lawn chairs and I wondered if Zoraida had noticed the garden mismatch.
“You have a gift.” From the chair she was in, you would never guess how short she was. She looked at me, then back at the flower garden. I wondered how someone who cared so little for primping could stay so beautiful. “We all have some gift, and yours is earth. You work well with plants, just like Aaron.”
“Well, thank you, I guess?” That didn’t really explain the flowers growing out of season, like my roses that had bloomed through the winter. The purple asters, like delicate little daisies, swayed curiously in the morning breeze, inquiring about why they were here now instead of in August. I wanted to call them anachronistic, though I knew that wasn’t the right word. English needed a word for out of season, like anaepockic maybe.
“Speaking of Aaron, I wanted to ask another favor. Would you mind watching Grandma when he brings over brunch? I’ll have the kids to watch and, you know, him… to… be with.” I watched as she sipped her coffee, as she considered her response. I was asking too much of her already, I knew it.
The day was warming quickly as the sun began peaking through the trees. One fat robin, hopping along the edge of tulips, glanced over at us curiously. It was perhaps our first spring-like morning. A warm southern breeze brushed through my hair, agreeing with me.
“Of course I will stay with her, Muira Dear. What else did you want to ask?”
“Uh, well, we kind of need to talk about your offer. To move in. I could really use the help with Grandma.” Where would we put everyone? I knew I could make the library into a bedroom, though it would be difficult to give up. It was my refuge, my bay window that overlooked the garden. I was giving a hand-me-down to my little sister all over again, that favorite doll that I didn’t really want to give up just yet. Nora never appreciated my sweet Miss Marbles. She poked the marble eyes out so she was no longer Miss Marbles. Just Miss Blind. Miss Maimed. Bay window, Miss Marbles: it all gets taken away.
The old rocking chair sat quietly in the library’s corner, which could stay. It held Grandma’s crocheted blanket as a cover, a gift that she gave me years ago when I was first pregnant with Shannon. The wood creaked like an old lady every time I used it, making me miss Grandma as I rocked my baby to sleep. Maybe now it could rock Grandma to sleep.
I knew that this time I was asking a lot more of Zoraida. Her gnarled fingers looked like they could barely hold her coffee mug. Did she have arthritis? I had expected that she would need more time to think it over, but she simply answered yes, and after patting my arm, she looked out over the sunshine filling my flower garden. “Next question.”
The golden tiara from Cork’s had mostly dried up, sitting in my purse all night. I placed it on Zoraida’s lap, enjoying its contrast with her dark brown slacks. I knew now not to use the word pants; Zoraida wore slacks. “I want to know what Goddess Grove means and why these yellow vines keep appearing everywhere.”
Was I sure I wanted to know more? No. The vines intrigued me, yes, and I wondered if I could take some from Cork’s to put in my own garden. But in asking Zoraida for more information on Grandma’s poem, I wondered what other craziness I was digging up. What other madness hid behind those dark curls, waiting to share heresy, blasphemy even, with my children?
Zoraida held the flower in her palm, the only part of her hands not twisted up, and pondered my questions. “Your grandmother told me that Goddess Grove is a sanctuary of golden sugar maples, a place where the Goddess dwells. Anyone who enters into Goddess Grove enters the presence of the divine.” Zoraida’s eyes were a million miles away, imagining the magic of a place she had never seen. “We have a lot more to talk about, Muira Dear.” She looked sadly at the flower as if it was a lost friend. “I think maybe it can wait until after your brunch.”
Yes, perhaps bagels would be better than this pagan nonsense. I closed my eyes, closed my mind to the idea of Grandma buying into Zoraida’s rubbish. It was a story, that was all. Grandma told me stories all the time. Goddess Grove was just another one. The sun pierced through the tree tops, smacking me right in the face that particular instant. The warmth flooded over me, once my eyes adjusted. It was that welcomed heat on a chilly spring morning that you grow to detest by mid July. I wanted to stay in that moment, with my skin soaking in so much Vitamin D that I wouldn’t need any more the rest of the day. “I could just close my eyes, and–”
“Apollo, Lugh, Mithras, Ra, Shemesh, Sol Invictus, Utu…” Zoraida was mumbling, muttering to herself as she closed her own eyes toward the sun. It was reverence on her face, even with her eyes closed, as she pointed her face directly into the light.
“Sun gods, Muira. Didn’t you learn about them in school at least?”
“Uh, Apollo, I guess. Yeah.”
Zoraida sat up straight and looked into my eyes. “Tell me you didn’t feel something. When that sun hit your skin. Tell me you weren’t moved.”
Speechless. It was a state I rarely found myself in, but there it was. She was right, and I couldn’t admit it. I couldn’t find any words for what I had felt. All those years of attending Mass and I never felt this, not once. Every part of me was alive, flooded with sunlight and warmth, protected and strengthened, but wanting to cry at the same time. Was there a word for all that?
Meghan ran barefoot out onto the porch then, startling me from my thoughts. “Mommy, it’s the sun!”
- to be continued…