Sunday, July 19, 2009


No more than twenty miles, as the crow flies, from the home of the most powerful man on the planet is a modest ranch house on two acres. The country road that leads there dips straight up and down like a roller coaster without curves, and the driveway is at the top of the second hill, right before the next plunge. It's a perilous left to turn onto the property; the few cars that travel it rumble quickly along the narrow track, nearly invisible until they crest the hill. This is where my aunt has lived for almost fifty years.

In my mind, there is still a gravel driveway that runs past the house to parking in the back, and dogs that chase the cars coming and going, barking in the dust. There is also a blackberry patch out by the road behind the mailbox. In July, when the fruit was ripe, our mothers would send the five of us cousins out to pick the tart berries. Despite the summer heat, we had to wear jeans and long sleeves to protect us from the thorny brambles that made little ripping noises as they rasped across the denim and pulled at our shirts. The oldest of us pushed boldly in, reaching for the big berries contained in those cages of stickers that even the birds could not breach. We winced or gasped or even cussed when the tiny thorns at the base of the fruit impaled themselves in our fingertips, and by sheer force of will kept hold of our quarry despite the stinging, then carefully backed out of the patch, like freeing ourselves from the jaws of a trap, to drop the berries in a bucket.

When the container was full, five sweaty children trotted down the driveway and shucked our unseasonable clothes for a tick-check before changing into our summer shorts, and not long after that, the smell of blackberry cobbler would fill the unairconditioned kitchen.

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