This is something I have only just begun so we’ll have to see if it goes anywhere or not. It’s called , Let It Go Already, and yet so far I’m not sure what has to be let go, so… enjoy.
Let It Go, Already!
Emerson California, the kumquat capital of the west. Technically, Florida has more kumquats then we do, but for whatever the reason, Emerson has embraced the this smaller, stranger relative of an orange in a huge way. Everywhere you look there is some reference to the fruit that has put this tiny town of 4500 on the map. Even our high school mascot is a kumquat tree. I kid you not.
It’s a quaint, quiet little town to those observing from the outside in. Main street houses a couple of restaurants, the breakfast cafe, the barbeque joint and Jenny’s, a slightly higher end eatery. Then there’s the bakery, the grocery store, a dress shop, the hardware store, etc. Everyone knows everyone, or at least they know of each other. Secrets are always discovered. There’s no hiding in a place where everyone knows your name and the names of everyone in your family.
Why I am coming back here, I don’t know. This will either prove to be the smartest thing I’ve ever done, or my greatest regret. My 13 yr. old daughter, Ruby, who has lived in Los Angeles her whole life, and who will soon start high school with a kumquat tree as her mascot, is convinced she knows which way this will go. God, I hope she’s wrong.
My dad passed away two months ago and even then I hesitated to come home for the funeral. That’s how much anxiety even visiting this town has caused me in the past. This quiet, quaint, seemingly innocent little town. Elliot’s parents still live here. Elliot being Ruby’s father. In fact, they live not more than four blocks from where I have agreed to rent a house. A house that is across the street from the house I grew up in, and where my mother still resides. A house from which my sister, Elizabeth, lives only three doors down, at the end of the cul de sac.
Elizabeth is two years older than me and known as the most beautiful girl, now woman, to ever come out of Emerson. Try growing up with that as your sister. Needless to say, she married the star athlete of Emerson High. Robert Daniel Anderson was the MVP of both the football and baseball teams. His family owns the hardware store in town, as well as another one in Creekville, the next town over. He chose baseball over football when that proved to offer the best scholarship.
Robert and Elizabeth married right out of high school before moving to Miami where he would be attending school. They returned a year later when Robert slid into third base, somehow shattering his knee, and ruining his chance at a major league career. I tell myself if he could return and endure all that he has, I too can make a go of it.
Ruby is asleep when we pull into the driveway of the admittedly tired old craftsman house that will now serve as her home. It’s late afternoon and the sun reflects harshly off the glass of the front window. The front lawn is patchy and neglected, with what else, a kumquat tree stationed directly in the center of it. I take a deep breath and gently shake Ruby just as I hear my mother slam her screen door, squealing my name, “Holly!” as she runs down the front steps, and crosses the street to greet us.
“Oh dear God, shoot me now,” Ruby groans, not bothering to lift her lids.
When she does open her eyes and sees the house, she shakes her head in resigned disappointment. My mother, in denim capris, a white blouse and sneakers, reaches us and excitedly yanks open my door.
“What are you doing? Get out here and give me a hug!” she demands.
My mother is what people often refer to as a spitfire. She is full of nervous energy, and rocks me side to side as she hugs me tightly. Ruby slowly gets out of the car and clutches her pillow to her chest. My mother lets out another excited squeal, drops her arms from around me, and runs over to Ruby, nearly knocking her over with the enthusiasm of her hug. I can’t help but laugh. Ruby has never been to Emerson, and barely knows my mother, but she has been warned.
My mother steps back, looks Ruby up and down, and then reaches out to touch her silky blonde hair. I know what she is going to say before she speaks.
“You look just like your mother did at your age.”
“I know, I’ve seen the pictures,” Ruby tells her.
“Where are your cousins?” Mom asks, looking down the street. “They should be out here to greet you. Are you so excited? You must be so excited.” she declares.
“Over the moon,” Ruby mumbles.
Ruby doesn’t know her cousins because Elizabeth and I have ignored each other for years now. At some point it just became easier to go by the theory of, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all,” and therefore Ruby hasn’t seen her cousins since that last disastrous visit to Disneyland when she was five.
Elizabeth can be very judgmental and some would say I am overly sensitive. She never approved of Elliot, or our decision to leave Emerson, and she has never been shy about making her opinions known. When I was then less than understanding of her decision to leave Robert, it became easier to avoid one another. I never meant for things to get as strained and uncomfortable as they did, but life has a funny way of catching you by surprise. Before we knew it seven years had passed with nothing more than a Christmas card between us. When our dad died of a sudden heart attack, we were forced to confront how fleeting life can be.
“I’ve been cooking all day,” Mom announces. “Pot roast, homemade dinner rolls, and fresh apple pie. Do you like apple pie Ruby?”
“Sure,” she concedes.
“Terrific, well let me go get your cousins to help you unpack. Where is your furniture? Is the truck behind you?”
“What truck?” I laugh, as Ruby starts up to the front porch.
“With your furniture.”
“There’s no furniture, Mom. There’s just what we could grab.”
“What? Why? Where will you sleep?”
“We have an air mattress. We’ll be fine. Don’t make a big deal of it.”
“But nothing, this is a huge transition for Ruby and she doesn’t want any attention called to us, so please, please just keep this quiet,” I plead. “I’ll get us beds once I get my first paycheck. Until then, this goes no further.”
“Promise me. This is a new beginning, and we will get new things. In the meantime it’ll be an adventure.”
“Thank you. Don’t call anyone. I presume Elizabeth and the kids will be at dinner.”
“So she can meet her cousins then.”
“Alright, of course. You both probably want to freshen up. Come over as soon as you want, but dinner is set for 5:30pm.”
I kiss her cheek, pull a bag and lamp out of the car and head up to the front door, as my mother returns across the street.