Grant is at a ballgame tonight, so I’m spending a little quality time with my old friends Ben and Jerry, listening to Tom Petty on the stereo, and relaxing into the familiar, strangely comfortable depression that settles over me every fall like a great soft-feathered bird, dulling my senses as the cold clouds dull the sky.

You know that old Karen Carpenter song that goes, “Talking to myself and feeling old”? That’s how I feel this time of year: nothing wrong; just a vague sadness that feels oddly reassuring in its familiarity and predictability. I don’t remember the first time I felt this way. Was it the year I lost Mom? Was it earlier? Later? Did something trigger it, or did it just drift in one afternoon, spread its wings across my consciousness, and take up temporary residence?

I’d thought I might avoid it this year, but here it is, quietly announcing the arrival of autumn as I lie here on the couch, waiting for the game to end so Grant can come home and put his arms around me and drive away the shadows that creep into my thought when I have too much time on my hands.

— Sierra

Wedding update

Grant is asleep, Joey is watching TV in his room, and I am wrapped up in a falsa blanket, blogging from a metal lawn chair under a clear New Mexico sky, watching the steam curl from my cocoa mug and drift off into the cold night air, and thinking that this quiet evening is probably the best chance I’ll have to post a full account of the wedding.

The ceremony itself was simple but pretty. Brother Jerry and a couple of deacons from church set up a little metal archway at the park, and Sandy decorated it with solar-powered Christmas lights, faux-fall-leaf garlands, and a couple of small chile ristras. Lil Miss presented me with a bouquet of sunflowers and daisies that she and Joey had arranged, and we set up a portable sound system and played a couple of Dad’s songs during the ceremony, which made me cry.

The most memorable part of the whole wedding — at least for me — was the gift Grant presented to me immediately after the ceremony.

Hank Freed came over one night last week, while Lil Miss was working, and offered to donate a junk car to the FFA for a fundraiser. He talked Bill Swinney out of some spray paint and a sledgehammer, towed the car to the festival site, and let the FFA kids charge people $5 to spraypaint an enemy’s name on the car and then hit it as hard as they could with the sledgehammer.

As soon as the ceremony was over, Grant took me over to the car, painted Jim Hendry’s name all over it, handed Lil Miss a crisp $100 bill, and told me to have fun avenging Ryno.

I’m no Willie Stargell, but I think I did a pretty respectable job with that sledgehammer. :)

Remarkably, I still had enough energy left to change a tire on the Volvo after Grant ran over part of a broken bottle on the way up to Santa Fe — the only glitch in an otherwise lovely weekend.

We stayed at the beautiful El Rey Inn. I’d had some good intentions about leaving work at work, but El Rey’s owners have given the property so many cute little flourishes that I couldn’t resist photographing some of the details and writing down a few ideas to bring back to Coldwater. We spent part of Sunday afternoon hiking La Bajada Hill and then spent Sunday night in Santa Fe before heading home on Monday.

We came home to find a check in the mailbox from that consignment lot in Flagstaff where Grant put the Firebird up for sale. After five months, it finally sold. We’re thinking about using the money to get the neon sign out front relit.

— Sierra

Friday night in Coldwater

It’s a cool Friday evening.

Grant drove down to Vaughn for the Roadrunners’ game. Lil Miss has horses to feed in the morning before she comes by to help me with breakfast and laundry, so she opted to hang out in the lobby and watch the Phillies-Reds game with Joey and me instead of driving an hour each way to a football game. I made some kettle corn and hot chocolate, and Lil brought Joey some leftover Fourth of July sparklers she found while she was cleaning her room the other day. She has promised to go outside and light them with him as soon as the game is over.

A nice couple from Wisconsin checked in half an hour ago, and an Englishman called from Amarillo a few minutes ago to see whether we had any rooms available. Other than that, things are pretty quiet around here. It’s a good night for popcorn and sparklers, I think….

— Sierra

House for rent

We’re trying to figure out what to do with Grant’s house. I am obviously not going to move away from the Tumbleweed when we get married, but we put so much work into the house that we don’t really want to sell it just yet. If anybody wants to rent an 800-square-foot cottage in Coldwater with a beautifully restored interior and a kitchen full of wicked-cool vintage appliances, I know of one that will be available in November.

— Sierra

Wedding gift

At five minutes after seven tonight, Dad’s agent, Valerie, pulled up in front of the Tumbleweed in a rented Lexus and presented me with a small package wrapped in yellowed paper with wedding bells on it and a slightly frayed silver ribbon around it.

I opened the package. Inside were a CD and a small envelope containing a note written in a familiar hand:

Dear Sierra,

I wanted so much to be there to give this to you myself. It breaks my heart to think that after missing so many moments of your life through my own selfishness, I’m missing this one through a cruel trick of fate, but I console myself with the knowledge that I am there now in the same small way that I was there when you lost your mother.

The enclosed CD is my wedding gift to you. Do with it as you will. I hope you enjoy it, and should you choose to release it, I hope and pray that it will be the most successful album of my career. I’d like nothing more than to provide my daughter a proper dowry.

I wish I could have met your fiance. I wish I could have heard you squeal with excitement and stumble over your words, giggling breathlessly, while delivering the news of your engagement. I wish I could have glanced down and seen my own dark eyes sparkling up at me, your mother’s smile spreading across your beautiful face, on the way down the aisle. I wish I could have hugged your husband and congratulated him and whispered, “Welcome to the family, Son.”

Some wishes are impossible. Love and a dozen songs will have to suffice.

I love you, Sweetheart. I always will.


P.S.: I am proud of you, even if I’ve no right to be.

I have no idea when or how he recorded it without my knowledge, but it couldn’t have been too long before he passed, because in addition to ten songs I’d never heard before, the album includes the song Dad was singing while we looked at the stars.

It also includes a cover of “Coldwater Morning.” Really.

— Sierra


I always get a little wistful as the days grow shorter, the nights grow cooler, and baseball season winds to a close … but this particular autumn feels unusually bittersweet.

I walked outside last night to watch the stars glitter against the blue-velvet dusk, and it suddenly struck me that this time a year ago, Dad — frail and fading, but still possessed of a poet’s heart — was with me, probably trembling against my shoulder on the old metal glider on his deck, looking up at stars I am pretty sure he could no longer see, holding my hand, singing a song he’d just made up about the steady, irresistible imposition of evening.

I sniffed the darkness once, dropped my coffee, and ran all the way to Grant’s house to collapse in his arms, sobbing hysterically until I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, couldn’t do anything but cling to him and cry, remembering and longing and forgetting to be grateful for all I have instead of mourning all I’ve lost.

God, I wish Mom and Daddy could have met him.

I wish Mom and Daddy could meet me. I’m not the girl they knew. Sometimes I wonder whether they’d even recognize me.

— Sierra


Remember the old Burma-Shave ad campaign, which involved little poems written on carefully spaced signs placed along roadsides during heyday of Route 66?

Yeah, I don’t remember them, either. Too young. But I’ve seen plenty of replicas along the road in recent years. They’re really popular with Route 66 travelers.

Set of Burma-Shave-type signs that mysteriously appeared along westbound 66 in front of the Tumbleweed yesterday afternoon as I was coming back from a grocery run in Tucumcari:


Set of signs attached to the backs of those signs at some point between the time I went to bed last night and the time I slipped out for a jog this morning:


Set of hastily made cardboard signs currently taped over the westbound signs for Grant to see when he picks me up for church this morning: