Yonkers

Y2020

Yonkers

“Trains, like time and tide, stop for no one.” ~Jules Verne

‘We’re on our way to Yonkers to see the Hudson River Museum. Prepare for the most wonderful surprise soon, sweetheart! We love you! Grandma and Grandpa Grant.’

Ashley held the postcard, the first of many depicting Grand Central Station. This was the card that kept his hope alive, which helped feed a lie. This was the card that brightened his day until that distressing night. And yet…

‘We’re on our way to Yonkers.’ That was one of the first destinations Grandma and Grandpa Emery brought up, to finish the US collection. That dream washed away with so many other goals.

He took the Jules Verne classic off the shelf. This was the story that started it all, the beginning of so many travels, both real and imagined. It was part of the ‘Most Treasured’ that he had placed in the suitcase before-. It was the first to perish in the bonfire, the last to be replaced.

Ashley smiled, recalling the day Professor Wilder gifted it to him. The note inside read: ‘There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship. ~Thomas Aquinas. Maybe together, maybe solo – may you go out to see the world!’

He placed the postcard inside the book, along with the note. ‘Past’ and ‘Future’ together for the ideal present.

X Marks the Spot

X2020

X Marks the Spot

“Any life is made up of a single moment, the moment in which a man finds out, once and for all, who he is.” ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Ashley set the fountain pen in the pencil tray, the leather journal in the secret compartment, lowered the roll-top of the antique mahogany writing desk, and then slowly secured it with the simple key, enjoying the slight click of the lock. The key was tucked back into the pocket of the felt-base of the miniature globe paperweight on top of the desk – a gift from Christina’s nieces and nephews. 

So many conversations, so many new family friends – each adding a sparkling star of their own. More than half a dozen sets of clusters creating their own mosaic, separate, yet connected. He smiled as he carried the compact photo album to the upper-most room.

He threw a couple of pillows onto the bordered rug with an ‘X’ in the middle.  Grabbing the homemade quilt, pieced from many memories that Mama Gordon kept track of, Ashley loved how the puzzle was finally coming together.

Looking up through the glass ceiling, he saw a new constellation emerging in his mind’s eye. Surrounded and protected by two families here, a deeper understanding of two families that made up his own, nothing was as ‘pure and simple’ as he had tried to define it. No matter how many times his heart went back and forth in wishing things were as he had imagined, he could finally focus on what was coming to the center.

Ashley Charon Emery knew who he was.

Wants and Wishes

W2020

Wyoming

“It is true, I want a great many things I haven’t got, but I don’t want them enough to be discontented and not enjoy the many blessings that are mine.” ~Elinore Pruitt Stewart

Ashley unwrapped the pocket watch he bought in Italy. “I saw this and thought it would be perfect for you – you know, as you continue your pursuit of justice.”

Evan held the crafted timepiece. “I can’t-.”

“Sure you can. How many times have you pulled me from the brink or pushed me towards the next finish line when all I wanted was to disappear? You, your family – sorry, our family,” Ashley laughed, “gave me the foundation to focus on the here and now. This whole ‘going around the world in 80 days’ routine…I truly realized what blessings I have here, with and because of you.”

Evan put an arm around him. “I guess Faith and Fate have a way of giving us what we need, despite our wants. I used to regret opening that can of worms, thinking that if I redirected my wrath, something good could come out of it.”

Ashley shrugged. “I suspected, retreated to my preferred realities and you helped start the fight against the dragons. Thanks for giving me the sword to finish it off. Kind of reminds me of that trick you pulled to get me onto the track field that day.”

Evan held out the pocket watch like a stopwatch. “Someone had to give a running start to shattering records of old.”

 

Voice

V2020

Victoria

“A voice is a human gift; it should be cherished and used, to utter fully human speech as possible. Powerlessness and silence go together.” ~ Margaret Atwood

“I’d only left the country once as a child. Grandma and Grandpa took me to Victoria, B.C.,” Ashley said. “Between the gardens, Craigdarroch Castle, all of it…everything was so wondrously breathtaking.

“My grandparents had their garden and I dreamt of a library. Inspired by stories, photos, whimsical nonsense, I suppose. Some of the rooms were inspired by the classics, others from museums, galleries, and castles. Each room had a purpose, a designated ‘voice’ if you will. Perfect harmony, from the calming blue ocean of the soft carpet underfoot to the seasonal collage of the ‘practical’ rooms, and the stars above, waiting for a guide towards the second star on the right.”

Evan shook his head as the thunder clapped in the distance. “And you claim you can’t find words.”

“To be fair, I wasn’t expecting a basement. Almost a ‘coming up from the ashes’ bit, I suppose. Another level of story, huh?” He smiled. “Hey, before you fly out tomorrow, I’ve one more precious item to entrust in your care – for keeps.”

 

Uncovered

U2020

Uruguay

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body.” ~ Martha Graham

Ashley moved the dance bag aside so Evan could have a seat. The other man grabbed a tango recording before sitting down.

“I know I taught you to tap,” Evan said. “But, when did the interest in tango begin?”

“Grandma and Grandpa Emery fell in love with it when they went to Uruguay. They say it originated there and not Argentina. I’m not going to argue. As for me dancing the tango, uh, no. That’s just a motivator to cleaning the house.”

Evan laughed. “I looked at all of the different classes Ms. Gates teaches and this was near the top of the list.”

“I love tap dancing. It…it helps me calm down sometimes. Tried tango once. Not ready for it ever, so… Swing, folk, jazz…I can have fun with those and do especially improv. I mean…” Ashley sighed. “Tango involves trust. I don’t have that outside of this family, not really.

“I’ll give her credit for drawing me out of my shell without pushing like Professor Wilder did. Not that I let my guard down completely, but…There were different styles she taught me, improv and ballet being my favorites, and she let me progress with tap. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t always find the exact words for what I’m trying to say.”

“Uh-huh,” Evan said. “Well, you’ve done quite well with your avoidance dance over the years for me to fail you. I’m sorry.”

Ashley shrugged. “That third year in college, when you told me to ‘come home,’ I thought you were…mad isn’t the right word, but…insane. To see what you all pulled off from some childish sketches-.”

Evan pointed at him with the recording. “Hey! Those were some imaginative architectural designs and you know how the older sibs get – they love a challenge. Besides, those ‘childish sketches’ have turned into a seriously nice sanctuary. Mama always said, right after your first visit to our place as kids, ‘Y’all know who’s gonna live in a library.’ And she’s right.”

The older man grabbed the journal from the backpack. “Let your mind dance around this: You’ve uncovered quite a bit, from Alaska to Uruguay to who knows where else. Not every story is written strictly with words and not every life fits into a single volume.”

Twilight

T2020

Texas

“Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another.” ~ Plato

“Charon,” Evan said aloud. “How on earth, d–n pun, did you end up with a moon for a middle name?”

Ashley handed him one of his most treasured books. “Grandpa’s love of the stars. That and I was born the year that Pluto’s moon was discovered, so… According to Uncle Jerry, it was also a compromise of sorts in being named after Great-Aunt Sharon.”

“Oh, how I loved star-gazing with them. No matter where we traveled, we would stop by the main libraries, the aquariums, the museums, and the science centers. Every time. When we traveled through Texas, along Route 66, we stopped and visited the science center near there. To see so much astronomical history there… I don’t know, I guess I’m a space case of sorts sometimes, huh?”

Evan smiled as he skimmed through the resource book. “You were always that and you still are. It could be worse. At least you’ve set your sights on something higher rather than looking down at your feet. So, the room upstairs really isn’t meant to be a sunroom, is it?”

“There’s supposed to be an awesome meteor shower tonight – unless you’re in a hurry to get -.”

“Dress warmly. If we’re stargazing, you know I’m dragging out Sis and all of the kids and we have a very clear view, too. Time to start making some new memories and traditions.”

 

Secrets

S2020

south-dakota

“Western civilization, unfortunately, does not link knowledge and morality but rather, it connects knowledge and power and makes them equivalent.” ~ Vine Deloria, Jr.

Four lines scribbled on the back of the postcard – one from each grandparent:

‘Never take the ‘official history’ as gospel – QUESTION EVERYTHING.’ Grandpa Grant

‘Dig until you have an original source. Then plant a seed of remembrance.’ Grandma Grant 

‘Perspective’s like a cue ball – you’ll get a ’round’ to it.’ Grandma Emery

Ashley reread the messages on the back of the postcard, aware of the ugliness behind the Mount Rushmore monument. While history didn’t hold the same interest as astronomy, literature, and the arts did, he knew enough to dig deeper than what was presented. If there was one historical account of something, Ashley sought the lesser-known alternative points of view.

He smiled as he read the last line of the card. ‘You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view. ~ Wise old Jedi guy.’

No matter how many times they watched the Star Wars movies together, Grandpa Emery loved to tease about not knowing the character names well, even as he was a font of knowledge about the characters’ histories and the actors’ projects.

Even if Ashley saw the finality to the original question he asked his Uncle Jerry years ago, would it be enough to put all of this to rest? Or was it possible, with these various travels, that seeds had been planted for remembrance?

Only time would tell.

Quiet Quest

Q2020

Quebec

“All books are merely delayed dust.” ~George Elliott Clarke

Ashley made another entry in the journal that came with the backpack. He couldn’t believe how far he had come since the pack’s arrival, since the series of mysteries and riddles, the various visits.

The headings for each letter were drawn by Grandpa Emery – he’d recognize the calligraphy style easily. What had started the journey or quest, in the beginning, had taken on a new meaning now. Ashley had almost forgiven himself.

Almost.

Per Our Rules

P2020

Portugal

Portugal

“To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there.”
~Barbara Bush

Ashley stared at the kettle, aware that it wouldn’t boil any faster, aware that he’d probably jump once the whistle sounded, as always. The ‘ultimate puzzle’ seemed similar, with pressure building, things warming up, and only a matter of time before-.

He jumped.

Looking out of his kitchen window, he saw Evan at the door, groceries in hand, knocking the door again with what must have been his foot. Christina was right behind him, with some totes slung on her shoulder.

“Never let her drive,” Evan said, walking past Ashley to take over the kitchen. “I hope you don’t mind if we’re early.”

“You don’t have a choice anyway,” Christina said, giving Ashley one of the totes. “The kids were excited to find those, so they’re yours to keep. Good news, you may, or may not have a short book report due for them the next time they’re by.”

“That reminds me, Mama wants you over at the house tomorrow for supper. No arguments.” Evan took the kettle off the burner.  “Are you going to be able to solve this before I go back east or should I extend my vacation?”

Ashley’s shoulders dropped. “I wish you were stationed to a branch out here, closer to home.”

The older man laughed. “Ah, wasn’t it both of us luring you home and reminding you that all was not lost? Seriously, do you see a light at the end of this, or…?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s like a Russian nesting doll combined with an impossible cube puzzle within an Escher painting. Just when I think it’ll make sense, I feel like I have to step back and try again.”

“Maybe it’s time to simply step back,” Christina suggested.

“Because I already know the answer,” he asked.

She pulled Ashley in for a hug. “Because you already have an answer to the most important question.”