The Distance Home

What comes together falls apart. Parties are planned, celebrated, then disperse and dissolve as though they were no more than dreams; seasons come and go like magic tricks, flowers blooming then fading, snowbanks swelling then melting away. How could it be different for families? There’s coming together and moving apart, being young and growing old, being here and being gone.

Still, to two young people just starting out, joined by two more just opening their eyes, this truth is hidden by the hopes and dreams that the filling of their hearts tells them are now certainly within their grasp—primarily, that they will be happy. After all, affection, love, is everything. If only things are handled correctly, if only care is taken and attention paid, there will be no falling away. They’ll nurture and care for one another, love and protect and abide with each other. What need could there be for a harsh word, a raised voice? Who could be so careless? Who’d make such a mistake? No. They’re young and strong and determined. There will be only the glory and joy of coming together and staying, coming together and building, building, building.

Eve got a call from Al, who was out on the road, making the only living he knew how, trading cattle. He’d invited an “important rancher” from Montana for dinner. They’d be arriving soon, so Eve should get some dinner ready, he said.

“Of course at the last damn minute. Can’t imagine what in the sam hell he thinks I can just cook up on the spot like that.” She started banging around the kitchen, frantically defrosting chicken in hot water, digging through her vegetable drawer. She got down flour and sugar, soda and salt, and checked to see if she had any frozen strawberries. “And when am I supposed to get myself ready, I’d like to know. God knows I need to wash my hair. You make sure Jayne is dressed, and take a bath, and pick up your room,” she called to René. “And Leon, pick up this front room, and get out the vacuum, and help me get the extension in the table.”

They were all in a panic.

“No doubt they’ll be here before we can get it all done,” Eve fretted. “Soon as I get this meat in the oven, we’ll do the table. And maybe I’ll have just enough time to drag a comb through my hair.”

She flew, and when Al and the important rancher and his wife pulled up, forty-five minutes later, everything was ready: the chicken was in the oven, the table was set, Eve had on a pretty dress and fancy apron, with her hair pinned back, and the kids had clean clothes, freshly washed faces, and real smiles at the excitement of company. Al had even brought home a bottle of chokecherry wine from some farmer friend of his, and Eve walked right over and gave him a kiss.

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