ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: Searching
Book Two, Chapter 325: Robins in a Holly Tree
It’s Saturday, the seventh of December. On the seventh of December two years ago, Ernie died.
I buy bread at the farm market from Lelia, whose face is masked by a black knit cap. It’s twenty degrees out, with snow over ice. Lelia and her husband are one of only five vendors set up this wintry morning.
“I’m so glad you’re here,” I tell her.
“We’re like the postman. Neither rain nor snow nor sleet . . . ”
I go home, then head out again, for the bank and library, but a row of holly trees near the bank stops me, their red berries glistening amid green leaves dusted with snow. Ernie and I had a holly tree once, shading a window of our stucco cottage. One wintry day robins flocked to the holly, stripping it of all its berries. They plucked berries all day long.
Now, looking at these holly trees, I suddenly notice movement. Robins, their breasts coppery in the snowy light, are swooping into the holly, landing on outer branches, then hopping deeper in. I see their yellow beaks opening. I watch one robin pop a red berry, his throat moving as he swallows the berry whole. Tweeting robins flutter in and out of the hollies, branches swaying with their movements. Snow smokes down from wings brushing against leaves.
Five robins settle near each other in a nearby spruce. Now I catch a dab of red. It’s a woodpecker, red head bobbing as he climbs the trunk of the spruce. He begins to tap. Tap. Tap. His body is shaped like an upside-down pear. Tap, tap. His taps sound as good as church bells.
I remember the tap, tap of rain hitting Crinklestitch Cricket’s mushroom house in Ernie’s children’s story, The Marvelous Kingdom of Wee. I remember the robin who led Mary to a long-lost key in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden.
Associations. Memories. They come to me all the time now.
Before Ernie’s death, memory didn’t exist for me. My past didn’t exist. That’s the old me, the me I was with Ernie and long before Ernie, the me I’m leaving behind now, the me who’s disappearing.
Or, maybe it’s the me who’s a smaller part of the me I am becoming.
Ernie would love this new me. He would love to hear me talk of my memories. He would say: Ernestina, you’re catching up with yourself. You’re finally becoming yourself.
On my way back from the library, I pass the line of holly trees again. The robins are gone. So is the woodpecker. I was lucky to be there when they were there.
I was lucky to be with Ernie when he was here.
I still hurt inside. I know I’m healing. It will take time.
I miss Ernie, yet he comes with me. Wherever I go, whomever I’m with, a little bit of Ernie is also there.
I welcome him.
I welcome love.
NOTE: This chapter ends Book Two of Ernie and Ernestina. There is a Book Three — it surprised me when the words kept coming — yet I don’t feel the need to post any more chapters. Instead, I feel the need to be open to what is and what will be in my life.
My life with Ernie is long gone. As of now, eleven years gone.
I thank all of you who have read these chapters. I hope my life with Ernie, and my afterlife with him and without him, have added to your life.
I wish for you what Ernie wished for me — peace and happiness.