A Heart Should Always Go One Step Too Far

August 22, 2008 § 5 Comments

We are leaving bright and early Saturday morning to trek to my hometown in Pennsylvania, where we intend to ply ourselves with Yuengling and pierogies and then force my parents to play a raucous, drunken game of Apples to Apples. (Seriously, we have no one to play it with. Come over?)

The main point of excitement about this trip for Scott is a detour I’ve promised him along the way through Centralia, a town above a coal mine that’s been on fire for almost 50 years. Only nine people live there now (if you believe Wikipedia).

I haven’t been in the area since high school, when we’d pass through it to play Mount Carmel in volleyball; from what I remember, it smells. We’d all stand up in our seats and quickly jam the bus windows shut as soon as we got close — it smells bad. It sounds like it’s gotten worse in recent years, with more sinkholes popping up and ruining roads. He’s excited, I’m slightly apprehensive. We’ll post photos.

The main point of excitement about this trip for me is, of course, a party — my grandmother’s 85th birthday celebration is Sunday. My mother has repeatedly warned me of one thing: She won’t remember me, and she certainly won’t remember Scott. And that is fine. That is not the point; the point is that we’ll all be together — daughters and sons and grandkids and cousins and great-grandkids — to see her and surround her, and to celebrate her. She may not know us, but I believe she will know something.

I called my mom earlier this week from Target with two gift ideas (a stretchy wristwatch or a retro coin purse with hand lotion), both of which she shot down (Gram has a watch and Gram doesn’t think to use lotion). I had walked back and forth between makeup and jewelry three times before she had a stroke of genius: “Get her lipstick.”

Of course I got petulant: But, Mom, I have no idea what kind of lipstick she’d want!
Revlon, she replied, Super Lustrous Cream Lipstick, in Blush Chrome. Number 110.
They were all out of 110.
Try a 400 instead then. 445 — Teak Rose. Or Cherries in the Snow; that’s 440 I think.

And just like that, my mother rattled off three shades, three exact shades, that she knew her mother would adore. It seems like such a small thing — she’s probably been smuggling those shades into Gram’s nursing home for years — but the love and care and history and gentleness there is in that simple gesture left me so touched.

Grounding. Centering. Concentrating on what matters. That’s what I’m excited most to do 100 percent of the time this weekend.

And did I mention the pierogies?

§ 5 Responses to A Heart Should Always Go One Step Too Far

  • pea says:

    Some friends and I drove to Centralia (photo) a couple of years ago and it was interesting. I don’t remember it smelling though. Can’t quite understand why anyone would still live there.

  • Isobel says:

    Oooh, I love Centralia. I hail from right outside good ol’ Allentown, PA – our own version of The Valley (Lehigh Valley, that is.) Centralia in the winter is extra creepy, it’s hard to distinguish the winter fog from the smoke pouring up out of the ground and the smell is extra potent. I particularly love the signs warning you that “you can drive down this road, but you might die” signs.

  • shampoosolo says:

    We didn’t see any of those signs! Just a lot of roads almost overgrown with grass. It’s funny, I’m from near-ish (one hour away) Allentown as well, and we always referred to where I’m from as The Valley too. Ahhh, Pa.

  • jenB says:

    awww, my mom still wears cherries in the snow.

  • Isobel says:

    There’s just one sign, actually, I think. It’s at the beginning of one random road. I have a picture of it somewhere. It says “you could die here,” but more politely worded. Really

    PA. Philadelphia on the East, Pittsburgh on the West, and Alabama in between. And don’t you feel such pride about The Office? Scranton, woo hoo! They don’t pronounce it like proper PA people, though. Amateurs.

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