Views from Annie's Cabin

miscellaneous musings on aging and living and loving

JOURNEY HOME

on August 29, 2017

MARCH 1962

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA

MAGNOLIA CEMETERY

 

Rose Marie

 

“The only thing constant in this life is change,” thought Rose, as she watched the priest drop earth to earth on Celeste’s magnolia-draped casket. The service had been lovely and brief, the traditional Episcopal Burial of the Dead and as the parties stepped from their cars into the cemetery a cold drizzling rain began to fall. The umbrellas made a stately parade through the narrow winding lane to the tent where chairs were set up to receive the mourners.

 

“Rain blesses the dead,” she recalled, feeling that remembrance infuse a little strength and reserve into her forlorn spirits. Septuagenarian friend of now three generations of the women of this family, Rose Marie walked alone following the others, her black umbrella dripping as she filed along the narrow path, before being ushered into a seat near the rear of the tent. Looking about her at the small crowd in attendance, she recognized the safe and distant world Celeste Fairfax had chosen to make her own in this lifetime, and thought wryly that most of the women there looked the same, all looked the way Celeste had looked ever since leaving the convent and marrying her prominent Charleston attorney: brushed and polished, carefully thin and elegantly dressed.

 

“Still, too young to die,” sighed Rose, “but then they all seem to die young,” she reflected, remembering Celeste’s mother Clara, and her death at the age of 36. And now Celeste, too, dead at 40.

 

Her mind running back in time, Rose’s heart ached for both of them, mother and daughter, but realized at the same time that, no matter how untimely, Celeste’s death was more understandable, more explainable, more easily accepted, than Clara’s had been. Celeste, whom Rose had known since her birth, had always been a delicate, fragile child, ethereal one might even say, finding her only real passion in music; whereas Clara had been strong and vital, more at ease flying over pastures on her horse, or being held voluntary captive in her remote mountain studio, alone with palette, paint and easel. Celeste had escaped into the ancient world of revered composers; Clara was determined to create something new out of the old, determined that her own stamp of individuality should make even ancient subjects live again. “But,” Rose thought, arguing with herself, “Celeste did the same with the soulful interpretation she brought to her music—-so they were alike as artists—–where the line was drawn was in their connection to the earth, to the physical world around them.”

 

Her breast rising with a deep sigh, Rose saw in the depths of her heart and in the immediacy of her sorrow that it was Clara who had been the whole woman and Celeste, alas, the woman manqué. Deliberately choosing to cut herself off from the physical side of life, the side that, to her, defined her mother’s shame and rebellion, Celeste made the conscious decision to live an unsoiled life, a life clean and tidy and untainted by passion and grief. She wanted her life to be safe. As safe as it was and had been in the convent, and as predictable; there’d be no heartbreak for her if she abandoned all that her mother had stood for and represented. And this, marveled Rose, was what carried the numbing shock of tragedy in this family. For both women had lost.

 

“Yet remnants of both lives, of both hearts and souls, still breathe right here, right now in this moment, right here where I’m sitting, laying yet another one down to sleep in the rain, she thought, brushing away the single slow tear that coursed her cheek.

 

“It’s funny how the mystery of genes keeps memories alive,” she thought, her eyes searching for and finding young Victoria Wren Fairfax on the front row, and from her place in the rear, watching the profile of that young woman, Rose became aware of a familiar sense of warmth flooding over her, a sense of fondness she knew from 50 long years ago and that had never left her. Feeling that flush of warmth in spite of the surrounding chilly rain, Rose gave a private nod to an old friend, an old private companion whom she called the Ghost of Time. And in acknowledging the presence of that old familiar friend, Rose, with a heart more heavy than lifted, knew that she had another part to play in the lives of these women, both dead and alive.

 

Gentle Reader—-after a summer of many diversions, I’m finally settling down to writing again.  And so—–to galvanize me into ACTION!!!  I’m posting a little teaser of how my story starts……..hope you like it!!

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