Clio, Muse of History

Clio, Muse of History

Takes place right before Move, And You’re Dead.

The sweet smell of apple pie wafts through my little farmhouse. It’s really Scott’s favorite, but I’ve already packed up my baking pans so Alan will have to put up with pie. I’m sure he’ll enjoy it anyway.

While I wait, I settle down in my rocking chair and pick up the last scrapbook I have to pack. It’s Scott’s, started by his mother when he was born. I can hardly remember visiting Lucy in the hospital even though there’s a picture of me holding him. One of Grant, too. We were so young back then.

Being the oldest, there are more pictures of him than any other grandson. He’s in the books of all the other boys, including Alan’s. I turn the pages, smiling, but my smile fades when I come to his tenth birthday. It’s a sparse affair, just a few weeks after Lucy’s death. I remember reminding Jeff of the event and telling him to take pictures. He took just one. No friends at the house, just Scott holding Alan and trying to smile beside the candle-lit cake. I think that picture made Grant and I insist on Jeff moving home to Kansas, where the boys would be surrounded by family.

There are no pictures of the funeral in any of the boys’ scrapbooks. Those are buried in an album at the bottom of a tote. I’ll find a shadowed corner to hide it in when I reach the island.

I sigh and check my watch. There’s still time.

In Kansas, I took over keeping up the scrapbooks. Not just for the boys but for Jeff, too. When I started packing these, I took a good long time reading his, watching him go from babe in my arms to Air Force colonel to WSA astronaut. His marriage to Lucy figures heavily. There are clippings from the newspapers on his historic spaceflight and landing, photos I took when he returned to Earth, and the pole barn where he started his first business. Oh, those were such happy days!

I smile, turning my attention back to Scott’s book. Turning the pages, I come across his graduation photos and the party we gave him. I swear half the town stopped by to congratulate Jeff Tracy’s son. Another page and there he is in his Air Force uniform at the end of basic training.

The pictures are sparser after that. A few Christmas pictures here and there. Someone took pictures of him in front of his jet, helmet in hand, and in the cockpit, too. There are shots of him taking in the sights where he was stationed. But no pictures on his return to the US. Just one of him meeting the President at Walter Reed. He wouldn’t allow us to take any others, not in the hospital and not in rehab. I snuck a few in when he came home on medical leave, his leg healed, the hardware used to put his femur back together nearly absorbed. Then standing tall again in uniform, newly promoted and headed back to service… but not for long.

The doorknob rattles and the hinges squeak as the front door opens.

“Grandma? Are you home?”

“I’m in the guest room, Alan!”

The last page is Scott at Tracy Island, standing on the pool deck with his brothers. Gordon looks pale; he had just left rehab after his hydrofoil accident.

“Wow. That was over a year ago!” Alan peers over my shoulder and I lift the book obligingly so he can see better. He notices the moving totes around me. “What are all these?”

“Family history going back at least three generations.” I close Scott’s book and lay it on top of the others before closing the box. “Seems our family was into journals and scrapbooks for years.”

As I rise, Alan cocks his head to one side, thick blond eyebrows knitting in a confused frown. “Are all these going out to the Island?”

I smooth down my apron. “They are.”

He follows me down the hall toward the kitchen. “Why don’t you just digitize them? They’d be easier to store.”

The dishes sit on the counter; the movers will pack them up and store them. I take two dessert plates and pull a knife from the block. “They have been, multiple times. Then a new operating system comes along and suddenly no one can access the files.” I gesture; he picks up the pie and takes it to the dining room. “Keeping this history in old-fashioned analog books is best.”

We sit at the table. He rubs his hands. “Boy, Grandma, this looks great!”

I smile as I cut him a wedge of pie. “Enjoy.”


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