Though time may wear down wood and metal, I refuse to let it change my memories. They can be immortalized in ink and paper, in bytes of data.
When I think of "home" my mind wanders down wooded paths to my family's tiny cabin, nestled in the Ozark Mountains. It would take about a twenty-minute drive in any direction to reach any sort of civilization. The parcel of land was given to my family by a very close friend. My dad designed and built the cabin himself (with some help from my grandpa, mom, and siblings, of course).
We would spend countless hours at the cabin. In the summer, we'd take a picnic, sit on the back porch, and sketch. In the fall, we'd spend every Thanksgiving here. We'd go down the night before, eat soup, play trivial pursuit, and read old copies of National Geographic. The next day, our extended family would pile in. There was no parade-watching or football. Only family and the woods around us.
I remember dad hunting here. I remember hiking to the far ridge with my brother. I remember popping over to the closest cabin to visit with old friends. I remember my mother decorating with fresh-cut evergreen, filling the entire cabin with the fresh scent of winter.
My sister and I went down last Wednesday, the five-year anniversary of my mother's death. Her presence lingers at the cabin. An old and faded evergreen arrangement, turned brown by the passage of time; an old coffee grinder placed carefully on the shelf; dried wax from candles long gone on the mantle. Each was a remnant of her. Each a reminder that this had once been her habitat.
We stood in the kitchen and cried. As much as you try to convince yourself that you've moved on, grief finds those quiet moments and makes itself at home.
I'm thankful for the time I spent with my family this last week. We all have a shared grief that binds us together, perhaps more than the common blood in our veins.