“Place as memory”- Christine Torosian

Driving west at sunset, I am reeling. My heart thumps out of rhythm as Bon Iver fills my ears with swooning melodies. One song melts into the next as I drive down the endless road alone. The sinking sun fills my eyes and I am a glowing blaze passing shadows of trees and cars on the road. Early September smells lush and purple with the culmination of late blooming flowers, August’s leftover heat, and the fresh, tangy scent of tomatoes sagging on over-grown vines. My windows are down, air sweeps my hair with the intoxicating perfume. Goosebumps cover my skin not from cold, but from an overwhelming blend of ambiguous emotions. If I had ever doubted in a greater being, I was a believer at this moment. Overcome with the thudding in my chest, my eyes well with tears.

I think of my flawed, but somehow ideal childhood growing up in the subdivision I am now turning into. I can see myself, a young girl, skinny legs and brown skin racing with the neighbor kids down the broken asphalt of this street. My car glides over the rolling hills where everything is familiar. Giant pine trees zig-zag across the horizon. Massive oaks, and maple trees shimmer as the evening sun glints off their glossy leaves. The sleepy houses sigh with contended joy as their elderly owners married for several decades grill chicken and steaks on their wrap around porches and decks.

I am coming home every time I drift past these stately houses built back in a time when builders didn’t buy sixty acres of land only to produce moderately varied cookie-cutter houses five feet apart. Back in the 80’s, my dad had a dream and made it come true buying a nearly two-acre plot of land and building a solid brick colonial guarded by sentinel-like catalpa trees which he had grown from seeds. He insists that he will die in his house and wants to be buried in the backyard. I can see why.

When I pull up, the yard is immaculate. Mom has kept her potted plants growing and blooming for as long as she can. The lawn is freshly mowed and a large white tent is sprawled over the flattest part of the back yard. Tiki torches are jammed into the grass in various places, waiting to be lit to scare off pesky mosquitos.

I push the car door open and feel the warm air rising up from the ground wrapping around my ankles. I anxiously open the trunk of my car and breathe out the last little bit of worry my heart had been clinging to. Everything made it in one piece. Raspberry sherbet colored roses wrapped with navy satin ribbon rest calmly in vases wedged with newspaper into cardboard boxes as if they had never moved an inch from the kitchen of my little house twelve miles away.

These are my brother’s wedding flowers. Tomorrow, my little brother, one of the greatest men I’ve ever known is getting married. I still see him as a kid sometimes; he has the same round hazel eyes that my son has. His hair is flecked with gray now, but I can still see his shiny brown head bouncing around this backyard rounding bases or playing football with his friends.

His heart is bigger than any ocean and he would give his last dollar to someone if he thought they needed it more.  The only thing he might not share are his French fries. He’s always been weirdly territorial about those…wonder if his fiancee knows that…

Ah, Sara. She’s a lucky girl. I hope she knows she is getting one hell of a guy. Of course he’s not perfect. He’s messy and loud but he will write her funny songs and whip up scrumptious culinary treats to make up for it.

I lift a box of flowers into my arms and shuffle carefully into the house where my mom and dad are sitting in silence at the kitchen table with no lights on. They see me walk in and my dad’s face breaks with a smile though I can tell he’s been crying. I know what they are thinking. They are staring over a cliff into something quite infinite wondering how the rest of this story will go.

3 responses to ““Place as memory”- Christine Torosian”

  1. Lovely, Christine. Your strong sensory imagery and powerful mixed emotions create a moving portrait of place and family. I love that September smells “purple” as it comes on–exactly!!

    “Early September smells lush and purple with the culmination of late blooming flowers, August’s leftover heat, and the fresh, tangy scent of tomatoes sagging on over-grown vines.”

    I also love this image:
    “Raspberry sherbet colored roses wrapped with navy satin ribbon…”

    This piece made me wish I had a brother–a feeling that comes over me now & then. (I’m keeping my fries to myself, though.)

  2. I really loved this Christine, especially since I know your brother and you could not have described him more perfectly.

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