Sunday, September 25, 2011

Into the Mystic

Standing: Dorothy, Margaret, Frank, John, Agnes, Wynell, Faye. Seated: Joann, Bonnie Rae (Mom), Carol

The Peacocks are almost gone.  With my Aunt Wynell's death on Friday night,  just Frank and Carol are left now.  Hearing the news, I am caught off guard by the returning ache of loss.  It feels like losing more of Mom , and I have been made melancholy by the memories flooding back to haunt me.

When my Dad  married my mother the year before I was born, he immediately moved her from her desert home in Arizona to live in the shadow of the everlasting hills (and the snow) of rural Utah.  He may not have anticipated how homesick she would always be.  Isn't it ironic? We leave home like escapees from prison, only to discover from a new perspective all that we have left behind.  The realization that in some ways we can NEVER go home again makes it even more bittersweet and beautiful as we grow.

In magical summers long gone by, Mom, my younger sister Katy Jo and I would ride the Greyhound bus nearly 700 miles to the Peacock Family Reunion.  We rode all night, stopping in every cow town along the way, only to arrive tired and wilted in the Phoenix heat.  The Peacock gatherings were big in every way.  Big personalities, big laughter and big talking sessions... often into the wee hours of the morning.  Mom's delight at being home again among her family was palpable and I knew there would be lots of tears when it came time to leave. 

Here is how I will remember each of Mom's siblings:

Dorothy:  Friendly, welcoming and hospitable...everyone congregated at her home.  Smoked like a train.  Had a laugh that made me laugh.  Came with cute cousins; a bonus.

Margaret:  Elegant and pretty...great clothes.  She wore the most fantastic turquoise jewelry, and was crazy in love with her handsome husband, Johnny.  Smart, reserved and clever.

Frank:  Handsome with a voice that boomed.   He took over the energy of any room he was in.  Severely burned when he crashed his plane while crop-dusting.  Even without ears, he was charming and had an unforgettable swagger.

John:  The quiet, serious brother.  Chose to see himself as an outcast...strong opinions and really thick glasses.

Agnes:  Old-fashioned beautiful; extremely proper.  Spoke slowly with a melodic Alabama drawl.  The quintessential kind, genteel southern woman.  

Wynell:  Outspoken and blunt.  Smoked in public and later in private; lied about it. Way ahead of Madonna with her large pointy bras....we called them "torpedoes".  Talking to Wynell was similar to the Spanish Inquisition.  She was going to ask the questions and you were going to answer. 

Faye:  Sweet, beautiful Faye suffered from some sort of mental illness that was never spoken about; at least not to us kids.  She would wander, sedated from room to room, and we were kept mostly away.  Her husband, Ernest always wore a coat, even in 100-plus degree heat and was a rock hound.  I met him once and his gentle kindness still lingers.
Joann:  The fashion-model with a smart-ass attitude to match her looks. Charismatic and funny. She came to pick us up from the bus station once in a multicolored pantsuit with horizontal stripes.  She turned heads and  jaws dropped.  She was scandalous and outspoken and loved every minute of it!

Carol:  The quiet, rich sister.  Married to a Montana oil man, she was shy and always seemed to be running from the poverty she had come from.  We saw her the most; but I knew the least about her. She and Mom were kindred spirits, far from home and family.  She is also the last remaining daughter of John and Katie Mae Peacock.

Knowing them all changed me.  These unique, flawed, wonderfully interesting people shaped my attitudes about family and togetherness.  I watched and learned as my mother loved and forgave them.  They were her touchstones for growth and her way to measure how far from the house by the train tracks she had come.  

Today I miss Mom with a renewed, but familiar pain.  I understand more than ever her longing for family and reunions; in this life and in our hope for what comes after.  

These are the spirits who welcomed Mom when she left us.

I like to think of them together now; returned again to their prime, just the way they were those summers so long ago. 

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