Green on The Vine
Sweet childhood memories.
Discovering that one of your most formative childhood memories was designed as a means to conceal murder is quite disconcerting. I blinked back tears as the crew cut the last of the dead tree and hauled the stump from the place where a 9 year old me, had planted it with my grandmother and her sister 30 years earlier.
The three of us had worked all afternoon, companionably chatting as we dug a hole large enough to accommodate both the 30 inch metal tool box that designated our "Time Capsule" and the spindly 6ft pear tree that I had proudly chosen the evening before. My favorite fruit, Aunt Jenny had asked, "Do you know, pears are one of the only fruits that can be picked green and still be sweet?" I was thrilled by the thought. I was thrilled by every part of the experience.
Throughout the years that followed, "Grandma's House" would be the site of my greatest childhood adventures and would be my most peaceful sanctuary throughout adulthood and "My Tree" held a special place within that sanctuary.
Joe, the man I paid to care for the house and grounds soon after I'd inherited the property 3 years earlier was a saint of a man who never judged my often costly or impractical decisions based on sentiment rather than reason. I had spent way more than even sentiment could justify trying to save the dying pear tree over the past 7 years, doubling down in my effort the last few years grandma was alive. Joe didn't even look surprised when I told him we would need to retrieve a "time capsule" that was no doubt entwined in the root ball of a now, very expensive and very dead pear tree.
I sat staring at the mud caked metal tool box, with "Girls Only Time Capsule" written in a child's sprawling handwriting with permanent marker, still partially visible on the lid. Every precious moment of that visit sprang back to life as vividly as if I was watching it on a TV screen.
My visit to grandma's house in the summer of 1984 was special. Two days after my parents had dropped me off for my very first solo visit, 2 whole weeks away from mom and dad all by myself, I came down stairs surprised to find Aunt Jenny at the kitchen table with Grandma, a cup of coffee in one hand and cigarette in the other. The two women were silent in the way that adults are when holding a conversation with their eyes rather than their words.
Jenny sprang up to embrace me with animated delight when she caught sight of me skulking timidly into the kitchen. We had lived just up the street from Jenny and Bill from the time I was 3, and I had missed her often over the past few years. I didn't know where she had gone or when I would see her again, only that she was gone because Uncle Bill had died.
I was sitting in this very kitchen, so proud to be big enough to help with dinner and other big girl chores, when my grandma and great aunt exchanged a conspiratorial look and asked what I thought about burying a time capsule to commemorate our special girls week. I was beside myself. What child of the 80's wasn't obsessed with the future? Aunt Jenny would sew some special cloth sacks for each of us to fill with the special things to leave behind for future generations. Jenny explained, contents of a time capsule are like birthday wishes, it is bad luck for anyone to know what you put inside but it is important that you choose something very special to you. It all sounded amazing. Besides, I would never have questioned Jenny. I had always found my grandma's younger sister fascinating. Where my beloved grandma was solid and independent and brave and practical Jenny sparkled with mystery, style and adventure. Grandma with her soft strawberry blonde waves and blue eyes and Jenny with her jet black ringlets they seemed to have nothing in common. I remember watching them and trying to see similarities between them. They were completely different people when they were together. Jenny brought grandma to life in a way no one else could, and Jenny seemed peaceful and confident when they were together in a way that she never did anywhere else.
My two best, life long friends, who were just about as similar as Grandma and Jenny were with me now to share in this momentous occasion. "What year were you supposed to open this thing", Maegin asked, peering at the muddy mess with mild distaste.
"Well, when we buried it, they told me I should dig it up when I was 40, so later this year." Actually, when we were all here together several years ago, the last time we were all together - and the only time I ever saw Aunt Jenny again after that week in 1984- I teased them for burying it directly under the tree where I obviously would never be able to dig the thing up, at least assuming the tree lived more than 10 years.
I had entombed a Malibu Barbie and a vintage Ken from my mothers collection, still kept at the house. I wonder what they may be worth now. Maybe I could spring for a new roof on the old place this year after all.
My little cotton sack was right on top, like I'd placed it there yesterday. Grandma's, light and full of paper, was in the middle, Jenny's on bottom, weighed a ton. The box was heavy but I hadn't thought about what may be weighing it down so much. "God maybe its gold, can you just imagine?" Leanne chimed in dreamily.
I quickly pulled the string off of the pink flowered sack holding Grandma's contribution to the project and pulled out a collection of old photos. She and her siblings on the family farm. She and Jenny with their dates for a school dance. A clipping of her brother's obituary and a letter he'd sent home from war. I fought a tear as I sat them aside to dive into Jenny's red satin pillow case, of course it was a red satin pillow case, she had filled, with what, bricks? Why is this so heavy?
Heavy with the weight of two guns. One Ruger one Smith and Wesson. The letter folded neatly in a sealed envelope with them contained a secret heavier than the weight of the two guns.
It happened on an exceptionally cold winter night, about a month after my 6th birthday. My curious little ears honed in on every word of the adults' hushed tones and somber conversations, but I could not reconcile the tall, boisterous "Uncle Bill" who I'd just seen the evening before, with my concept of death.
On the 30th anniversary of Bill’s unsolved murder, my mom's cousin paid for an article to be run in the local paper telling the story, hoping that after so many years some one with information may come forward.
I had always understood that he'd been murdered, but that was when I'd learned he'd been shot 5 times at close range. $2,ooo cash had been left untouched in his pocket. Forensics indentified bullets from a Ruger GP 100, but the murder weapon had never been found.