Life Stand Still Here By Marcia Dickson

December 30, 2014 § 4 Comments

 Mrs. Ramsay bringing them together; Mrs. Ramsay saying, “Life stand still here”;
Mrs. Ramsay making of the moment something permanent…
To a Lighthouse—Virginia Woolf

HNYChristmas was over at last, but Christmas vacation lingered on.  The holiday had delivered little respite from the drama and trauma that seemed to expand and contract in seriousness: the annoyance of missed planes; the near disasters of sibling rivalry; the nothing much of lost keys.  Forty and separated from my second husband, I lived alone with my youngest child, Ken.  My older two sons had moved into early adulthood and away from home.  I spent my days studying for my Ph.D. as if proving I could read and understand Virginia Woolf made me smart enough to compensate for my failed marriages and incompetent mothering.

This Christmas vacation my boys and I had come together again.  We each had our own troubles, our own grief, our own anger.  Rich came up from Florida where the Air Force provided refuge from his troubled high school years;  Dave flew in from Texas where he’d gone to live with his grandmother after he’d flunked out of college.  Ken relaxed for a few days from an intensive passive-aggressive war with his 8th grade English teacher, having spent the fall refusing to turn in homework because he felt it was stupid.  While it was good to be together again, after a week passed I suspect all of us wanted to be alone—away from the need to meet each other’s expectations—just for a moment.

On New Year’s Eve, the excitement of former holidays regenerated.  Both the older boys had plans to reunite with old friends, and I was expecting my complex and conflicted second husband to arrive for another attempt at reconciliation.   From the bedroom where the older boys slept—a place that had become a sort of TV room for Ken and me when they were away—the stereo pumped out the local radio station’s rock music, and I happily hummed along, thankful that the music was at least the type I could tolerate.  All of us were getting ready, preparing for—hoping for—a life-changing new year.

Inevitably we ran into each other as we moved back and forth around the first floor, bumping shoulders and throwing out apologies.  I was pulling placemats from the hall linen cabinet and stopped to listen when I heard the Charlie Daniels Band start up.  By the time Charlie reached the chorus, Rich—air guitar in hand—leaned out of the bedroom and sang directly into my eyes—

Will the Circle Be Unbroken

and without a pause, I leaned in toward him and picked up the refrain

Bye and bye, Lord, bye and bye…

David came down the hall on the way to shower, and stopped to join us, holding his towel to his chest as he belted out the next line.  And then Ken, not to be left out, wiggled his way into what was becoming a tight circle in the surprisingly acoustic hall.

There’s a better home awaitin’

In the sky, Lord, in the sky…

As the song picked up, so did our spirits.  Chins raised, voices loud, we sang out, not touching purposefully, but swaying into each other as we moved to the music.  We made a joyful noise in that small hall, laughing from the simple fun of being together.

Life stand still here, I thought.

We came down from the finale with a sense of silliness, and after a few quick smiles, Rich turned back to the TV room for another song.  Dave headed for the shower, and Ken—realizing he had been singing with his mother—headed back to his comic books.   I still hummed happily as I continued my search for the placemats—

Will the Circle Be Unbroken

But the moment passed and nothing we sang kept the future from happening.


Marcia Dickson retired from The Ohio State University at Marion in 2005 after teaching writing and literature for seventeen years.  She has spent her time since then working on a book about family, education, small towns, and Texas.


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