As I reach the end of my self-assigned task of presenting the collection of my mother Mildred’s papers I see myself facing the transparency of time. As I struggle to recreate the history of the homestead dwelling I also find myself left with this part of history as it has been preserved not in Mildred’s letters but rather in this small surviving pile of photographs such as they show me where my parents created within ever-changing walls a version of home as it was meant to separate the lives of those who lived within them from the wilderness that surrounded and encapsulated our family. There is also a transparency that has appeared as the story told by Mother fades into what is left of her story as it survives within me.
There is a certain quietness that surrounds the ending of a story as the words belonging to it vanish with an inevitable certainty into the vastness of the future. I am left thinking about the very language of homesteading itself, homesteading as the law defined it, homesteading as my father’s one word snatched our family’s history from the legal parameters of fulfilling specified requirements to obtain ownership of a tract of land equalling 160 acres. “Entrymen” is what the government called those who pushed past a boundary of civilization into an area whose natural history did not include humans.
As Father was the entryman of our family, Mother was the entrywoman and we six were the entrychildren. From what I know of myself it was the wilderness that entered me. I resided for only a short period of time within the final homestead dwelling that had been built from the beginning only upon poplar tree posts set upon that land high on a mountainside a short distance below timberline. Because it was my experience to be the chosen child for Mildred’s mentally ill psychotic abuse, the walls of the shelter that protected us from the elements of nature at the same time trapped me inside of them with Mother.
I therefore have many sets of memories connected not only to the passage of time covered in Mildred’s words, but also to every one of the physical structures our family lived inside with her, especially the homestead dwelling. It was there that she could do whatever she wanted to do outside of the range of human comprehension. At the end of the literal road that led to the door of our home I have finally found my way to the end of my task to set to order the shambled record of all that can be known of the Lloyd family’s Alaska homesteading saga except as that history continues to exist in my memory and within the memories of my five siblings.
At this point I pass through the invisible transparent portal of time past into time present. Any step forward I might now take leads me into my own story and out of my mother’s. I welcome that transmission. I have, in reality, worked in some way all of my life to reach exactly this point in time.
A few chosen pieces of Mildred’s writings have been passed into the hands of my youngest daughter who asked for them. All of the rest of Mildred’s papers are gone. I buried them in the earth, watered the dirt, introduced garden worms that I received through the mail from my sister to the east of me and from my sister to the west of me, and then I waited for nature to take its course. After a few short months there was nothing left but some twisted rusted wire spirals left behind from Mildred’s journals. Everything else was consumed to become rich, palatable soil that supports new life. I cannot imagine a better ending for Mildred’s story as she recorded it in her own words.
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