As I lift my broom to brush the pollen from the patio tabletop, I remember.
Tricia, Naturalist Extraordinaire, taught our homeschool group, the Explorers, right here at this table. Earthworms and other decomposers. Susanna and Kalie and Ben and Mica intently observing earthworms wriggle in their hands. Dry ice experiments. I can still see in my minds eye: Justin with his orange Mohawk, watching Tricia’s magic alongside Joanna and Benn. Eli helping his Dad launch a bottle rocket from the lawn just behind me.
I reach beneath the table with my broom toward a heap of golden pollen. The Fall Festival, the one where Cassie and Tabitha and Melissa bobbed for apples in our washtub on the table. Madison prepping our Asian pears, green-gold ribbons of peel spiraling onto the ground. The sweet wet fragrance of those pears still hangs in the air. I glance behind me; yes, the clothesline that runs from the deck railing to a far tree. I remember it weighted with donuts on string, Stephen and Matthew and Lillie taking hungry, messy bites.
The swingset: Jacob and Kate and Sydney taking turns flying off and jumping into piles of leaves. I can hear their high-pitched cries of delight.
The Easter party, the one that the teens planned: Moriah painting eager little Rowe faces. Melanie and Denise and Jamie donning Easter ribbon wreaths atop their heads. The “big kids” hiding the eggs behind the house, Tabitha and Scott herding the wide-eyed “little kids” onto the deck so they couldn’t peek at the hiding spots. I feel sure that there are still a few plastic eggs, cracked by weather and time, along our hill’s treeline.
I remember the Christmas party when the older kids put on a nativity pageant for the parents; we sat on the deck as they performed in the yard. Matthew narrated; Ansley and Sarah Kelly were fashionable shepherds; the Robinson girls were exceptional directors.
I swat at the filmy webs knitting the railing together, spiders eager to feed and build families. Cindy and Connie, Lisa and Samantha lined up at this railing, watching their kids, sharing their thoughts and wisdom with each other.
I bend my neck back, watch slate-blue sky crowded with clouds, and wonder: were we EVER rained out of an Explorers party?! If memory serves correctly (it doesn’t always), we consistently had friendly weather. I look toward the sunroom door and see Leah and Gwen, their little boys on their laps, spreading tomato sauce and grated cheese onto homemade dough during our annual Pizza party.
Back to my broom. As I push my pollen collection toward the deck’s edge, I smile to think of the families that have passed through Explorers, passed through this home, for nearly 18 years. As the seasons wax and wane, I will sweep away pollen, fallen blossoms, clay bootprints, rust and gold leaves, dusty snow, from these aging boards. But nothing could ever sweep away those years, those layers of memories!
Those families and shared experiences helped shape this family. Those lively, full-color memories echo in my heart with a clarity borne of joy and gratitude; they are as much a part of our home as these swept wooden boards, as full of life and joy and promise as the seeds and leaves that I launch from the deck's edge, twirling and carefree in dusk's friendly, gentle light.