After a prayer, it was time to set the cloth bag into the earth. Margie reached over and down as far as she could and released. The sound of air being displaced was like when someone fogs their eyeglasses to clean them. Then there was a thud followed by tubular bass echoes. Marge put her hand to her mouth and we all looked at one another in surprise. “Sorry Mom,” said Marge. Then laughter erupted and poured into the hole right on top of our mother. It was the most beautiful sacrilege.
I bent over in hysterics and felt jettisoned back to the dinner table when we were all a little silly. We sat on unmatched chairs and the window sill around a fully leafed table. Mom’s spot was always on the western end of the food deck. We always sang the Johnny Appleseed song like the national anthem and some of us must have heard “Plaayyeeee Ballll!” Things would happen. Things always happened. We reached for and spilled the whole milk. We retched up and spewed the whole milk. Someone often would end up on the floor curled like a baby and wishing he or she had worn a diaper. My mother, like an umpire behind the plate, would make the calls with authority:
“Oh, straighten up!”
“Someone sop it up!”
Then we would sit still and straight and wait. We sat with elbows on the table, like Judas in the ceramic “Last Supper” that hung off kilter above us. Carly Simon’s “Anticipation” would hush our immaturity, for a moment. We looked at our plates. We held cottage cheese on a spoon in front of pursed lips. We smirked at each other as our peripheral vision looked on the west end of the food deck. There she was, bless her, mouth open to receive a shovel full of gruel, and…she swung and missed yet again and a blob would roll down her front. Then ten umpires would resist the urge to yell with authority…”Strike!” She would mumble a disappointment and we would relax, smirk, wink, and sign to each other that another traditional meal is in the books.
One hundred years from now sounds of laughter will still work its way out of this piece of earth.
We all picked up a shard of sycamore bark and tossed our piece into the hole like a rose. We took turns shoveling the moist earth in and on her ashes. Then Mike, my brother in law, served again as grave-master. He came back from the shed with a tamper. A tool with a long handle and on the end was a square foot of iron which was flat on the bottom. It was heavy and compressed the orange soil. We laughed again as the symbolism of a son-in-law interacting with a mother-in-law was displayed in a vignette of a two-handed pound down.
More dirt was layered, more tamped down, and more tampered with holy, happy moments of goodbyes. My mother’s “Sentimental Journey” had taken on a transcendent ambiance and all her children were thankful.
In a message threaded to all of us siblings my sister Marge said it aptly;
I would like to add we had a good, sharing time, and placed Mom “carefully” into her resting place. You were all there in spirit with us, and now we must move on and make Mom proud of her children.
Yes, and a hundred years from now we will be with her.