The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs

The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs

Author:Nina Riggs
Language: eng
Format: mobi
Tags: Biography & Autobiography, Medical, Personal Memoirs, Women
ISBN: 9781501169359
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: 2017-06-06T00:00:00+00:00

12. The Little Brick House

We return to Massachusetts for a family wedding a month into the latest chemo. We leave the kids at home with friends. I shave my head tidily. I go bald-headed to the rehearsal dinner. My aunt Cami, who has gone two rounds with breast cancer, takes me in her arms and sways with me for a moment.

We stay with my Emerson cousins in Concord. Their house is just a brisk walk through the Estabrook Woods away from where we lived when I was young, long before Charlie was born, in the tiny brick cottage on my great-grandparents’ estate. Past Punkatasset Hill, the sledding hill, and Hutchins Pond. Past the ghostly stand of white birches. Across the meadow and up along the fire road. My cousins lived in my dead great-grandparents’ house across the field, and more cousins lived in a house just down the road.

The estate was sold decades ago to a family with the money to keep it up: Fancy stables now sprawl over the site of the old barn and an immaculately shingled farmhouse stands where my great-grandparents’ rambling homestead once stood—a grand but unsettling house with three stories and back stairways and a ghost named Mr. Dutton. The old driveway where my cousins and I learned to ride our bikes has been regraded as a gentler slope—almost like a trick of memory. But the little brick house still stands on the far side of the field.

It is much quainter than it used to be—a rose-covered trellis, a picket fence around the perimeter, dormers, a bright blue door—but completely recognizable. John and I walk toward it along the fire road. The house appears to be empty.

My mother often described the time we lived here as the happiest in her life, which is odd, considering she—born and raised in Panama—was transplanted here into the Yankee den from California for the snowiest winter in years. That year—the winter of 1981—snow fell through April in impossibly huge, magical piles that my mother and I had never dreamed of. One November morning when I was four, while I was sleeping in a makeshift bed of blankets by the back door while my dad built a stairway up to the attic—which was being converted into my bedroom—I woke up under a drift of snow from a blizzard that had blown the door open in the night. I remember my toes cold and wet, thawing between my parents’ warm, sleepy bodies when I scrambled into their bed.

My father taught my mom and me to cross-country ski, and we would clamp on our skis sitting on the back stoop and disappear within minutes into the silence of the Estabrook Woods. Even by age five, I understood that this life was unsustainably simple. If you wandered into the barn you would find: chickens, an uncle tinkering with a tractor engine, a half-built kite, the echo of my dad chopping wood across the field. Once, I remember hearing screaming and then laughter as my cousin Bonnie and I dug holes in the yard by the brick house.


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