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For The Strength of Youth

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Submitted by spazmom on 23 February 2007 - 11:43am. |

The rest of the drive seemed anti-climactic as I drove into Astoria and looked around. The town seemed much the same as I remembered it. The Palmers lived behind Astoria, around the bend so to speak. I realized that the way seemed familiar as I drove down the narrow road with few houses, and came to a stop in front of one that was set back off the road a ways with a large lawn.

The house itself was a log cabin design that Bill Palmer had drawn up and built himself. That was his living--log homes. He had made his own home a showcase of what he could do. He’d made all the wood furniture inside of it as well.

As I gazed at it, I remembered my parents had a huge four poster bed with 10 inch wide turned posts he had made for them. I looked down at my hands, remembering sitting on that bed and talking to them about my dates, or what they were planning on doing that day. Now the bed was in storage, and I realized I felt like I had been in emotional storage until the Palmer’s had sent the letter.

Someone had opened the door and I sensed I was afraid of what was inside. I wasn’t sure I wanted to come out where I could be hurt again.

I started the car and turned down into the driveway to the garage and turned it off. The peace and quiet enveloped me like an old friend. I had always felt like they lived in their own private forest. They were surrounded on all sides by fern and thick pine trees. The birds calling loudly was the only sound.

“Oh boy,” I said out loud, getting out of the car and leaning on the roof. “This is home.”

Suddenly I heard a screen door slam and a woman in her late 50's, wearing an apron over slacks and light blue blouse ran out to stand in the walk to the driveway. I turned to look at her, realizing it was Maribel Palmer. She hadn’t gained an ounce since my youthful recollections. Her hair had become more gray than brown, and her face a little more lined, but she still glowed with health and vitality that seemed to rub off on everything around her.

“Mari?” I said softly, not knowing what to do.

She took a couple of steps toward me. “Angela, is that you?”

“Oh Mari!” I came out from behind the car and ran to give her tight hug.

“Angela, it’s so good to see you!” Mari’s voice quivered with emotion. “Let me look at you!”

I stood back so we could get a better look at each other.

“Oh, you’ve grown lovely, my dear!” she said, her expression tender. “I wish your parents were here to see you.”

I gulped, reminded of how often I had come here with them. “I wish they were too.” I realized with a jolt that I hadn’t had anyone to share my grief with. No one who had really known my parents like the Palmers. I felt tears in my eyes and took a shaky breath. This was ridiculous, I felt like a child.

Mari pulled me back into her arms and held my head against her shoulder. “It’s alright, Angela. Go ahead and cry. It will be good for you.”

And at her words, I felt a flood gate open somewhere inside and out came the tears. I hadn’t realized it was still there--the pain, the loneliness, and the sorrow. I didn’t cry for very long before I was able to calm down and relax, letting it slowly seep out of me.

“Coming here was the best idea,” I said brokenly, as I pulled away. “Why did you suggest it?”

Mari smiled and pulled a tissue out of her pocket to hand to me. “I’m not sure exactly, I just knew it was time to end your self imposed exile and come back.”

I smiled back at her. “I didn’t know I was. I didn’t know about anything. I just know I’m home. Thank you so much!”

Mari’s smile seemed to grow. “You’re very welcome. Now, come on in and relax. We have a wonderful weekend planned. After that, you have your choice.”

I chuckled, knowing I was in for a tiring weekend, knowing Mari. As we went inside the cabin-like house, I realized that my sorrow and some of the grief were gone, lightly washed away with the tears.

Inside was much as I had remembered. The walls were all plastered except for the large family room that had the log interior. It was decorated with taste and blending colors. A little bit country, a little bit Colonial, but it mixed well the way she had done it. She led me to the kitchen where it looked like she was in the middle of something.

“I guess I interrupted your baking,” I said, glancing at the flour and other ingredients scattered about the counter.

Mari chuckled. “Now, Angie, since when have you known me not to be baking?”

I laughed and sat down on one of the wood bar stools next to her. “That’s true. It’s too bad your only daughter, if I remember correctly, can’t even mix up a cake from a box.”

Mari made a wry face. “All too true,” she admitted, stirring something in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. “Les has no inclination to be in the kitchen at all.”

I shook my head. “What is Les doing now?”

Mari sighed. “She’s traveling. She doesn’t know what she wants to do. She decided to drive down the coast and end up in San Diego. I asked her to stay home and get a job in Seaside or something, but she felt she needed a break after college and had money saved up, so I couldn’t talk her out of it. She’s an adult now.” Mari paused in her mixing, a wistful expression on her face. “It’s hard to believe my baby is all grown up and graduated from college.”

I smiled. “Just think, your little baby girl will get married soon and have little babies of her own and then you’ll have grandchildren!”

She gasped, in pretend outrage. “Oh no! I’m not old enough to be a grandma!”

I laughed at her expression. “Mari, you’re the youngest mother of adult’s I know!”

She laughed with me. “Oh my, Angie, I have missed you!”

“I’ve miss you too. It’s so good to be here.”

We grinned at each other and then Mari sighed--a relaxed sound--as she stirred what she was making for a minute more before pouring it into a waiting pan. The silence was peaceful and I relished the feeling of being home.

“Do you remember where your room was?” She asked after a moment.

I nodded, smiling fondly at the memory of a small room with a twin bed, a dresser and bookshelves with matching bedspread and curtains.

“Well, why don’t you go and take your stuff up while I finish up here.”

“Okay.” I jumped up and went out to the car to grab one of my cases. I had packed more than I usually did, but I wanted to be prepared. I lugged the first one to the house and up the stairs to the loft area where my room was. I dropped the suitcase on the bed, and sighed.

She hadn’t changed a thing. It looked just as I had remembered. She had changed the curtains and bedspread, but the rest was just the same. I went over to the window and opened it, letting in the cool breeze blowing through the trees. I stepped back and lay down on the bed. It was so good to be back. I couldn’t get over how wonderful it felt.

I closed my eyes and soaked up the feeling of peace and contentment. I hadn’t felt like this in a long time.

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