Give me a memory of the color red. Do not write the word ‘red’ but use words that engender the color red when you hear them.
When I was 9, there were some perfect days. There was one summer day that I recall – one of the few – that was filled with the perfect and simultaneous presence of my parents. As if I realized that we were hurtling toward the ending of us, I grasped at the remnants of that day and captured a few tissue-thin memories before they could vanish. I needed to retain a perfect memory of the three of us, together.

It was rare at that point in our existence for them to be home together. The transient fragments of my memory tell me that it was a weekday. The heat was oppressive and in the horse paddock, billows of dust rose under the hooves of the horses. Hot bugs buzzed and dry grass rustled in the scant breeze. I was sitting in the shade of the porch with one of the cats, avoiding movement and wiping beads of sweat from my upper lip, when my mother’s face appeared in the screen of the kitchen window. “Come get your bathing suit on,” she said. Her mouth worked into a wry smile at my delight.

The three of us climbed into a car, I don’t remember which one, and rode past country houses devoid of life. I imagined that the heat had caused everyone else to evaporate. They hadn’t been lucky enough to get a ride to the pool before the scorching sun vaporized them. The radio played the perfect song, causing my father to sing with his arm slung over the seat behind my mother.

We went to Hebron Camp to swim in the public pool together, the only time I remember my father swimming with me. I showed off for him, demonstrating my ability to dive into the deepest water of the pool to retrieve his quarter. I’d burst through the surface triumphantly holding the shining trophy in the air, but also making sure that they were still there. Each time I went under for the quarter, I half expected that when I rose through the bubbles and rubbed the water from my burning eyes, he would be gone. His presence was tenuous.

From a distance, I tread water with only my eyes resting above the surface and quietly marveled at them sitting in the water together. I desperately wanted to witness proof that this day wasn’t a fluke. I wanted to see evidence the day’s warmth was permanent and that our appeal was strong. I swam in circles around them, driving them close. I wrapped my arms around their necks, enjoying the intimacy of our limbs intertwined and my body kept afloat by the water. I clung to them in the pool, eagerly waiting to turn the page on their discord, clinging to the hope that feelings had changed.

The sun began to sag in the sky and, despite the heat, I found myself shivering. I protested when it was time to leave and hid my hands, as if my pruned fingers would be used as evidence that I’d been in the water too long. I hung in the water, unwilling to emerge and return to our home. Through clenched teeth, my mother ordered me to get out.

Sulking and wrapped in my towel, I followed them to the car already noting the distance between them as they walked. We drove through the dusty heat and, from my quiet perch on the backseat; I studied the waves of his brown hair lifted by the wind from the open windows. She said nothing but her eyes came to rest on the view beyond the passenger window. I followed her gaze to the direction of the blazing sun and watched as it began descending into the rolling hills, casting its fiery glow on the horizon.


  1. Katie @ Chicken Noodle Gravy says:

    How beautiful and sad all at the same time. I could practically feel the urgency you felt in trying to put the family together, trying to hold onto that moment of togetherness. The imagery was lovely…I could perfectly see the redness of the sun melting into the horizon.

  2. Slidecutter says:

    Beautiful and touching, especially that last sentence, a metaphor, comparing the melting sun and a disintegrating marriage.

  3. Rancher Mom says:

    I love how you put such emotion and picture into your words, just brilliant!!

  4. Fantastic writing. You had me right there with you! I felt it. Haunting writing is always the best, and you are the best at that!

  5. Dwija {House Unseen} says:

    Totally got chills…for real!

  6. TexaGermaNadian says:

    What a story. Absolutely beautiful. You really have a great talent girl!

  7. Beautiful, eloquent, and sad all at the same time.

  8. This is beautiful! You do such a great job of merging your hope and heartbreak in this story. And you never once said "red"! 😀

  9. Oh, my. This is so heartbreaking. Very well written and I too wanted to "fix" it. I'm glad that you have that memory.

  10. I can feel it all – the sun, the water, the heat, the fear. I love the pictures you paint with your wordbrushes.

  11. Beautiful sad memory.

    "Already noting the distance between them as they walked".

    I noticed stuff like that when I was a kid too.

  12. thefancyflea says:

    What a beautiful, sad memory. Aside from the lovely writing, it goes to show how much the "little things" can affect and stay with children.

    I've been loving your writing lately Kelli! xx

  13. Wow what a fantastic post! Your writing of this was so perfect. One minute you take us from sad to happy, and then right back to sad again. There is a reason I like your site so much!

  14. The imagery in this piece is so haunting. It almost reads like a movie. Well done.

  15. Like the first commenter said, how beautiful and sad, simultaneously.

    Well done!

  16. Mommy used to be so pretty... says:

    You are incredible. Get that diploma, mama. You have definitely got the goods.

  17. Jennifer says:

    Kids know, they always do. Parents think they are hiding everything so well, but the kids always know. It is like we could feel the strings that tied us together coming undone. Some days I feel like I'm still trying to catch hold of those strings and hold them together.

    You did a beautiful job sharing this memory.

  18. Jane@flightplatformliving says:

    as so many have said this was heartbreaking. you painted vividly the little girl in desperation wanting to make it better, i feel quite choked! brilliant writing x

  19. Thank you, everyone. I'm thrilled that you all took the time to read and comment. You all encourage me to keep going!

  20. Galit Breen says:

    I couldn't get past the haunting sadness in this post. You really captured that perfectly.

    I adored this part: "As if I realized that we were hurtling toward the ending of us, I grasped at the remnants of that day and captured a few tissue-thin memories before they could vanish." because it pulled at every heartstring that I've got!

  21. I don't even know where to begin to tell you how gorgeous this piece is.
    You've captured those feelings of childhood powerlessness while painting an incredibly vivid scene.

    I love this line, "The transient fragments of my memory tell me that it was a weekday." That is so gorgeous.

    And this one, "I followed her gaze to the direction of the blazing sun and watched as it began descending into the rolling hills, casting its fiery glow on the horizon."

    Your writing is just stunning.

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