Where did you go after you danced around that old oak tree? Did you hide yourself away just as soon as the reel of sweet sixteen was packed and shelved? Was it really you, that auburn hair bouncing in the breeze like a perfect partner, your eyes dreaming and teenage scheming? Even through the faded film and the tired machine you jumped right off of the screen. I don’t believe I’ve ever met that girl, Mother.
Was it your dad or mine, who froze you in time? I could have swore that it was my pops who wore you so thin but then I saw more movies and there was always a beer in Grandpa’s hand and I heard that off camera the scene was not so grand. I thought my dad could not be topped in things terrible; the way he could ruin Sunday dinner with a word, or send one scrambling as furniture flew, but now, with years affording me a better view, I know that my dad was your dad; they were the same, right down to the final scene. Daddy dearest was the dearest you’d ever seen, and you sought his face in every crowd until you found the one to fill the shoeprint he’d left on your grand design.
Your memory of sweet sixteen is all but erased, and you wonder oft, was it even real?
The leaves on the old oak tree have all been plucked by winter‘s icy fingers.
I hated you for all of your pain. I was trapped in the shadow that it cast over long rainy years. That’s how pain goes; the torch gets passed and the race picks up speed.
I once thought I should demand explanation; why didn’t you just get over it, grow up and move on? Isn't that what we do in life?
But I don’t think I want to make you cry again. You were just trying, after all, to find sweet sixteen and that dress you wore when you were free. You refused to let anyone see you tire, but your eyes betrayed you with lines long and deep, like those in that faded film that ran full steam to push one more take through the lens.
Think of me from time to time, and wish me well as I do you. There still stands the old oak tree. We can find it, you and me. Perhaps we can go there and make a new movie, bring a picnic lunch. I have a hunch it could work if we tried. For now, hold this candle I’m giving to you. I will find you again before the flame flickers out.