Dancing with Loretta

Over twenty-five years ago
On a muggy summer night
My grandparents put a cassette in a beat up tape player
And danced together on the front lawn to Loretta Lynn
The coal miner’s daughter from Kentucky

Grandma and grandpa swaying under the willow tree
Glasses of iced tea waiting on the porch rail
My sister and I chasing each other through the grass
Swinging on the willow branches until they broke
Knocking breath from our bodies

Over twenty-five years later
I sat in a Berwyn bar
Listening to Tom Russell sing about coal miners
And old men in dying southern towns
And I wondered about my grandpa
Midwestern tenant farmer
How proud he must have been to buy his own farm
To start the family auction business
To paint the fresh black lettering on the barn
That read Evergreen View Farm

And I thought about my grandma
Reading grammar books in a two-room schoolhouse
Books that still lined the hallway shelves when I was a girl
Her stories about skating on winter ponds
And fighting with her sisters over dime store candy
And party line phones

They cut down the willow tree after grandpa died
And soon, like ice cubes softly melting
My sister and I vanished from grandma’s memory
Became the strangers at Thanksgiving dinner
Leaving only a branch or two on the family tree

But I wonder if sometimes
On summer evenings
When the glasses of iced tea drip
And children play on the nursing home sidewalks
She remembers that night twenty-five years past
When she danced under the willow tree
With her husband and Loretta Lynn

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