My mom recently made a trip to California. Before she left I sent her an email. I had something pressing I wanted to tell her:
Dearest Mom, I’m glad you’ve been with me all these years.
If I try hard I can see you, Teri, in October orange. A majorette costume, so brilliant, like the fall foliage. And black sequins shining like the night sky. Your legs were as long your smile , was broad, and we; we were just 13.
We lined up with the band on a Friday night in autumn. It was 1980, and the stadium lights saturated the gleam of your batons. They were on fire, like you, and the band played Breadman.
Nothing could out drum the noise of your smile. It was a whipped confection like a sugary Yamboree pie. It whisked away the judges at the county fair. Everyone adored you.
That same year, I saw you on the town square during the festival. The colored bulbs of the Ferris wheel burned out the night stars. Punctuated our hopes. And our shadows danced in the fields and farms Of Upshur County.
In a corduroy jumper you climbed onto the magic of that carnival. In fall, I waved but you did not see me. In the years that followed I looked for you, If only in my mind. Everytime the band played you were standing in my yard…
I missed you, after I moved away. Once our analog days had passed and we reached the dawn of the digital age, I searched for you. This went on for years. And, then one day I wrote to an acquaintance and she wrote back to say you’d died.
You were 26.
I’d been thinking of you for 30 some odd years, and you’d been gone for 16 of them.
Nothing could out drum the noise of your smile. It was a whipped confection like a sugary Yamboree pie. It whisked away the judges at the county fair.
I waited too long to tell you, Teri, I loved the way your glittery pink eyeshadow blanketed your suntanned eyelids. I can still see you staring off into space, plunking on the xylophone while the band director called out your name:
Teri, Teri, Teri, are you with us?
In October, they’ll gather on the town square like they have every year since 1935. But, there are no more sweet potatoes in the fields around Upshur County. Just this maiden Yamboree Queen laid to rest.
I want Teri’s mom to know I think of her often as she was that day under the Ferris Wheel. The broadway lights of concessions and rides rocketing the town, igniting our adolescent dreams. I remember her as she was during Texas pep rallies in the early 1980s, 100 miles from Southfork. Donning an orange and white check pinafore and bloomers along with the rest of the team…
And, the constellation of twirling medals pinned to her band jacket and running track at the high school in 1980s navy terry cloth shorts. And her bright blue bandeau bathing suit. She jumped off the high dive at the city pool and into my indelible memories.
I think she would like her mom to know that she’s glad she was with her all those years. Through cancer and baton lessons and costumes. Fire and fringe, her smile remains.
The last time I saw Teri she was standing under the Dogwoods on Bradford Street and talking about Susan. It was spring, but I miss her most in October.