Seventy years after the war is over, and here is my mother taping white crosses to the windows against the bombardment of a storm that threatens to settle in the hollow of her yard. Plywood is better, is what I could have told her if I had been there to say it. My mother with her straw hat, her elbow-length gloves, stained in the crooks of her fingers by the loam of the garden, and my father with his bad back at the base of the ladder, braced against a wind that hasn’t yet come. Maybe there’s no stopping the memories that push through the dirt like amber cicadas waking as one from a long and troubled sleep. Maybe there’s nothing I could have said to my mother on that ladder, who turns from the window and sees her whole life spread out before her. The neighbors with their children throwing crazy streamers of masking tape to each other across the gravel of their driveway. The old man down the block who is stringing the curtains closed over the sink of his kitchen, who is filling metal buckets that must be a thousand years old with a hose that he snakes through the gap in his cobwebbed door. And here is my grandmother, unbidden, who closes her invisible hands over my mother’s eyes, who lets her warm breath heave into her ears with the knowledge of the sirens that rang and rang, even when the bombs were falling, even when the fires were twining up the street and wavering the patterns on the crisscrossed glass that was meant to hold the world at bay. And it’s my father, in the end, with his anxious eyes, who peers up at my mother against the ceiling of clouds and reaches his hand to the skin of one ankle where her pants have ridden past the hem of her blood-pressure socks.
That’s enough, is what he says in the only voice that cuts through the haze of her thoughts, and she climbs down the ladder with her blind toes seeking the rungs until my father pats the dust off the backs of her shoulders and they stand for a spell with their arms at their hips, watching the storm roll in and in and the tumbling wind that hauls grit from the soil and sets it rising and rising until it turns to smoke, to light.