Up here, it’s a haunted house

“‘… up here’ –she gestured to her head– ‘it’s a haunted house.’” – Gabrielle Zevin, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow.

We flew across the country to bury your ashes by your eldest daughter's plot. There was a barbecue in your niece's backyard that week, where your extended family — our extended family, I guess — gathered to see each other and share their memories of you. It was a sunny day, mid-July; I was exhausted. I took a nap on a loveseat in the empty living room. Like you had done during family gatherings when you were alive.

Water is boiling in an electric kettle on top of a file cabinet behind my desk. I pour it into a mug covered with titles of commonly banned books. I dig a teabag out of the drawer of the cabinet I emptied of files and filled with tea, coffee grounds, and snacks. I dunk the teabag in the water, watch the brown cloud stretch, grow. Steam sways like a wind chime's mallet in an autumnal flurry. Every few minutes, you remind me to take a sip, so I don't have to microwave it like you needed to near the end.

When I was in elementary school, I walked to your house when the school day ended. It was a cold, dark winter. I watched cartoons while working on math homework — simple multiplication, I think. You made me hot cocoa by microwaving a mug of milk, squirting in chocolate syrup, and twirling whipped cream on top. Did you add a cherry? Did you keep a jar of maraschino cherries in your fridge? I don't remember.

One of my students asks me to see their choir concert. I put it in my calendar to make sure I can attend. I arrive early, park in the same spot I left two hours earlier. I sit in the room where students ate lunch six hours earlier. They have a solo during the final song. My heart is full, my eyes teary. This must be a fraction of what you felt during my concerts. You tell me to help put chairs away when the concert ends. I tell them how proud I am of them and their performance. They introduce me to their family. You tell me how proud you are of me as I drive home.

It was spring. My mother, your younger daughter, buried some of your ashes along the edge of her yard which overlooks a small creek (which exists when it rains for a day or two). You are split between two sides of a continent; flowers bloom around your name every year. 

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