Leaving Home

Those last months in western Maryland were a season of farewell. I found myself clinging to Gertrude, who promised to write to me. I asked my grandpa for stories of long ago. I walked in the woods to say goodbye, following my nose to the skunk cabbage by the pond and digging under leaves to find jacks-in-the-pulpit. I lifted the green hooded flowers with brown stripes to find Jack, always standing tall in the pulpit, even though nobody was listening. And in the night garden, I looked to make sure the Big Dipper still spilled stars and watched the night lights glint in the creek. In all these visits, I took pictures with my eyes so I could remember.

Finally, one day I found a comfort. I would buy some land, I decided, before we moved. Land that would wait for me while I was gone. Walking up the lane after school one afternoon, I found the plot I wanted. The lane, the creek, and a row of trees formed a triangle around a parcel maybe twice as big as my bedroom.

Later when I graduate from college, I thought, and come back to teach at Yoder School, I’ll build a small house here. I sat under the maple tree and looked around. Along the creek, shepherd’s purse plants waved in the breeze. Bees flitted in the daisies.

The land belonged to Luella and Meely, two ancient sisters with silver hair who wore ruffled aprons over their plain dresses and bustled around every Wednesday baking cinnamon rolls. They sold these cinnamon rolls for spending money. If I buy this plot of land, I thought, they’ll have even more spending money.

In my bedroom I climbed on my desk to get my piggy bank from the high shelf. The pink pig with a big belly, a red hat, and blue coveralls sat on its hind legs staring out of big black eyes. I was glad I had plunked my birthday money into the pig instead of spending it. I’d be willing to give up my entire savings for the land, I decided. My ancestors had lived in these mountains for over a hundred years, and I belonged here, too.

I held the pig in one hand and knocked on Luella’s and Meely’s door with the other. This was Wednesday, and I could smell the cinnamon.

“Come in!” Meely said.

And then I didn’t know how to start. So I stammered around explaining that I needed to own some land and I wanted it to be near my house and the triangle between the creek and the lane and the trees would work fine and I was prepared to give them all the money in my bank for that land.

Meely looked at Luella. Luella set the spatula beside the cinnamon rolls she had been frosting. She squatted down beside me and explained that, no, they didn’t want to sell their land, not even this little part of it, not even for all the money in my piggy bank—not even if I saved for another year.

I swallowed and blinked so I wouldn’t cry and said that, no, I didn’t want a cinnamon roll. And I fled.

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