As It Turns Out
By Susan Chesnut
While reading a new book, I came across a phrase that made me stop and think: “History hovers.” I love history; so much so, that I am often accused of not living in the present. We’ve all heard, “History repeats itself,” but the idea of history “hovering” sounds as though it waits, just out of sight, until an opportunity presents itself to land and replay a past performance.
It started with my birthday a week ago. I decided that I wanted to get a small bird. I remembered when Shelly, my eldest daughter, had a parakeet. She named him “Sir,” tamed him using potato chips and taught him to say all sorts of things. I haven’t thought about the little guy in decades, but remembering how much fun Shelly had with him convinced me to get one too. Mine is Petey so you could say, “Pete’s a repeat.”
Our granddaughter, Luca Bella, is with us for her summertime visit, and two days after I turned the big “55,” Nick and I took her to the mountains of Red River. The cabin we rented was part of a group that shared a large pond for fishing. As she learned to cast her own rod I was flooded with memories of another little girl doing the same thing. Both mother and daughter grimaced as they dug for and finally came up with a handful of damp earth that wiggled as the nightcrawlers pushed through it.
My voice warning Luca against getting too close to the pond, too wet or too far away, seemed to be an echo uttered long ago. And yes, my eyes witnessed the same dismissal of danger that her mother had shrugged off. When she tried her first taste of fried trout, with the same reluctance her mother had shown, she was just as unsuccessful at trying not to like it. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I had made Luca went into the trash missing only one bite while I ended up flaking most of my trout portion into her plate. Déjà vu.
When Luca rides her horse a glow of pure delight spreads across her face. It’s the same glow that came home on her mother’s face the afternoon she successfully scrambled through a neighbor’s fence and clamored up onto the back of an unsuspecting Welsh Pony for a stolen ride.
Both take to the water like ducks, as I was reminded at Nick’s company picnic. A local park pool had been reserved for employees’ children, though they had to wait until 7:00 p.m. By that time, the day was beginning to cool down considerably, helped by a westerly wind. The water was ice cold, but not one kid was willing to admit to feeling its effects, including my granddaughter. Wearing a million dollar smile despite her chattering teeth, I saw the face of her mother at seven-years-old, soaking wet, shivering and lips blue, one big goose pimple, balanced on the edge of our pool in Minnesota.
The excitement of each new experience plays across Luca’s face just as it did her mother’s, so much alike it is almost confusing. My heart used to swell so at the sight of her mother’s eyes wide with discovery. It fairly bursts at this repeat performance by her own child.
And as it turns out, I have been lucky enough to witness both.