Bag of Bones
by Rebecca LaFontaine-Larivee
How did I get to be this bag of bones?
At one time small and lithe, climbing every tree.
Our yard, my jungle filled with unknowns:
a nightly gathering of newts and salamanders. Bobcat leering at me by the deep ravine.
An Old Victorian hugged our fence on the eastern side.
Faded, cracked paint.
Tall, narrow windows with green, dark shutters.
Our own house next door was nondescript —
hobbled together with earthquake salvage ferried across San Francisco Bay.
Steep slope of Cazneau Street lead down to brackish waters,
Wood and asphalt steps wind down to the shops on Bridgeway Avenue.
Me, too small to walk all the way.
Big sister frustrated that I go so slow.
That creeping fog in Sausalito. The fire that almost burnt our waterfront down.
Dressed in our Mother-made matching outfits,
Madeleine always outshone me in her greens and blues.
I would cringe, head down, in my warmer hues.
Reds and oranges for me, the second born.
Mom called us the “twos-its’ but knew we would never be the same.
Now estranged from my sibling, we are forever united:
by cotton print dresses,
and scabby knees.
Many years later, in Smithfield Rhode Island, another old house rises.
Built next to an even older dwelling.
This newer, second house built in 1776.
Four generations of my husband’s family gather for a birthday celebration.
Treehouses unreachable, having outgrown their masters.
Swimming pool unused that day.
Still water reflects a cloudy sky.
Green lawn slopes down from colonial doors.
We decide on an expedition.
The graveyard of the founding family awaits us at the bottom of the hill.
Aunts, uncles, niece with stroller walk down — trying to avoid the poison ivy.
Some tombstones inscribed with the names of children that were
gone too young to climb the hill to play.
Back at the house:
the lawn chairs are out.
The birthday cake is sliced.
Sun comes out melting ice cream, which drips from paper plates.
Breeze carries with it strands of warm conversation while games are being played inside the house, and out.
Little feet run up and down the stairs ignoring the ghosts in there.
The house is said to be haunted.
A door slowly closes with no one on either side.
I ignore it and go back outdoors.
A nephew invites me to join a game called “500.”
Trying to be the cool aunt, I lose my balance reaching for that elusive ball.
Views of sky/trees/house and green grass alternate before me.
Feeling my body tumbling down that hill.
Granite boulder breaks my fall before reaching the churchyard.
Bruised and battered, but also relieved,
not to have joined that family plot.
Why did I try to be that younger girl, not the woman I am now?
Looking up to see a ghostly figure peering down from that second story window.
The far bedroom where that door closed slowly — with no one on either side.
Mouthing the words, “Not yet. Not yet” through time’s distorted glass.
Buying time — perhaps a few years longer.
Feeling like a bag of bones.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rebecca LaFontaine-Larivee is a retired archaeologist and mental health therapist. Originally from the SF Bay Area, she has made NW New Mexico her home for over twenty years. Rebecca's previous works of poetry and creative nonfiction have appeared in AZ: THE JOURNAL OF WEIRD ANTHROPOLOGY, EMPTY MIRROR PRESS, THE WRITE LAUNCH (BooksCover2Cover), and GRIFFEL #7. Rebecca was awarded a CONNIE GOTSCH ARTS FOUNDATION GRANT IN 2019 for her memoir in progress, THE GLITTERING SKY.
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