Inheritances can be things other than money and land. Sometimes it can be fear. Sometimes, love.
When she turned 34 (or was it 35?), our world turned strange. She made lists
and phone calls to kin she rarely spoke of. She taught us how to cook,
to make and keep a budget. Lessons followed on how to mend a hem, sew on a button.
We took bus rides spanning the city, our sweaty thighs sticking to the seats. She made
us watch closely, her jaw tense, back board-straight. Later, she quizzed us
about bus stops and the proper use of transfers. By summer’s end, we navigated
the routes without her. Both of us shyly proud of our own prowess.
Only then did the visits start. She sent me to spend Sunday dinner with a couple
from church and a family with a farm and four daughters. My brother, older by two years,
learned how to make engines sing again and woodworking. He was taught by quiet
sympathetic married men, fathers and grandfathers. There were talks about growing up
and responsibilities. She stopped fights with admonishments to take care
of one another. She hugged us before bed, at morning rise, after dinner.
The ties that bind wound tighter that year. She packed our bags tight
and well, long before we’d need them.