That weekend is etched in my mind like a well-known DVD. I can just hit a button and see it played out before me in true color. But it is better than a DVD, because the emotions are still there, embedded in my heart.
It was one month after Mother’s last chemotherapy treatment. All three of my little sisters were screaming in one huge tantrum.
“OK, that’s it.” Mother’s hands were on her hips. “Pack your bags. We are going to Lunares.”
We stared at her, all four of us. “Where’s that?”
She looked me straight in the eye. “Lunares is the planet next to the moon.”
The girls looked up, as if they could see the moon right through the ceiling. “I don’t remember that planet.” The oldest one was suspicious.
But Mother was already packing. We drove far into the night. All the way I stole little glances at her. The girls didn’t bicker even once.
When we stopped it was pitch black, not a light to be seen. “Get your bags!” Mother handed a flashlight to my littlest sister and pointed at me. “Bring the tent.”
We crowded into that tent with my sisters giggling and whispering and Mother rummaging around in her bag. You should have seen the girls’ eyes get big as she started pulling out instruments and gizmos.
The first thing she pulled out was a dial, like from an old radio. Then she had all these wires and tubes that she directed us to connect to this or that corner of the tent. When everything seemed as twisted as it could get, Mother started fiddling with the dial.
“Are we really going to Lunares?” The middle of the girls looked hard at the dial.
“Of course. Now sit back.”
I jumped and half expected Something To Happen.
“Now we wait.” Mother smiled.
I guess I fell asleep. The next thing I remember is a great jolt and all five of us tumbling out of the tent.
We were in the middle of a field surrounded by trees and rolling hills. The blue sky was big and clear and no sign of civilization could be seen, not even the car. It was there, sitting in the tall grass and surrounded by my wide-eyed sisters and my confident Mother, that a piece of me almost started to believe.
“Look!” my littlest sister cried, and promptly disappeared from view. We ran after her and found a grassy knoll. Just like that all five of us were sliding down the hill right on our bottoms.
Mother threw back her head and laughed, really laughed. Her hat fell off and she didn’t bother with it again. Somehow her bald head fit into this beautiful alien world just perfectly.
That weekend was one of laughter and play, love and togetherness. We slid down the hill again and again. We hiked over the next hill, singing at the top of our lungs, and fished in the lake on the other side. There was no pain or worry in this Lunares world.
In the evening the moon was bright and the stars were numerous. It was easy to believe in The Planet Next To The Moon. It was easy, too, to talk about heaven out there, when we felt so close to it. Praying didn’t feel like praying at all, but just like talking to a friend.
We called Dad on the cell phone. “Do you see that bright star?” he asked my youngest sister. “See it winking at you? Imagine that’s me, winking ‘good night.’”
We got the giggles then, and right out there in the tall grass we giggled ourselves to sleep.
The next night the tent was again twisted with wires and we climbed out of it before sunrise. It was odd how the car I had spent so many hours in seemed more unreal than a weekend on Lunares.
Life returned to normal. But it was a new normal after that. There was less bickering, and each night all six of us would go outside and watch the moon rise over the tips of the trees.
Within seven months Mother was gone. All that is left now are the pictures. But somehow, when I look at them, with her bald head shining, I don’t see a woman eaten by cancer. I see Mother, a beaming Lunares woman with a piece of grass sticking out of her ear.
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