By Susan M. Thigpen © 1983-2012
Issue: August, 1983
“Sure is hot for this time of year.” Old Maggie stopped, put down her sack and sat down beside a big oak tree. “I swear that walk up the path from the road gets longer all the time. Glad I don’t have to go out that often.”
Maggie had a right to be weary. For ninety-two years she had lived in this hollow. She was born in the house she still lived in. She was an only child and grew up in the remote backwoods. She never married, staying on to take care of her parents when they became old and feeble. When her parents died, it just didn’t seem right to live anywhere else so she kept on staying there, the place she had always called home. The older she got, the harder it got. There wasn’t a road into her house, just a quarter mile path through the laurel thickets, worn smooth by a hundred years of use.
She knew every bit of this path so well. She looked up at the oak tree she was leaning back against. “I remember when it weren’t no bigger than my fist. Years has just made it stronger. Wish I was that way. I need to get back to the house but I’m so tired. If I could just close my eyes for a minute.
Maggie opened her eyes and knew she must have dosed off to sleep. “Wonder how long I been sleeping?” She looked up at the sun and it hadn’t seemed to have moved much. “Couldn’t have been for long but I sure do feel refreshed. I feel as spry as a spring chicken.” Maggie got up and hefted the sack onto her hip. “Sack don’t even feel so heavy anymore.” She started up the path again, feeling new energy inside her. Her pace quickened almost to a skip.
When she neared the clearing where the house stood, she a saw a cat sunning itself. It stretched and yawned. “Danged if that cat don’t look just like old Tom. Best friend I ever had. I must have got Tom when I weren’t no more than six or seven. I was so dumb I didn’t know it was a she-cat and named it Tom. Boy the litters of kittens that cat did have! I loved that cat. Being an only child, living way out here, it was the only playmate I ever had. Funny how much that cat looks like Tom. Wonder where on earth that cat came from?”
As she neared the house, she stopped and bent over. There were a patch of pansies just starting to bloom. Funny, she thought, “Ma planted pansies there but I thought they died out long ago. Haven’t noticed them in years.”
Maggie stepped up on the rock laid as a doorstep to the old house. As she did, the front door opened. Maggie barely recognized the woman that stepped out. It wasn’t the old, decrepit woman as she last saw her, it was a young one, as Maggie remembered her looking in the far corners of her memory. It was her own mother. It was beginning to dawn on Maggie what had happened. Her mother stretched out her hand, smiled and said, “Welcome home.”