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The Lost Pines

posted Jul 12, 2017, 8:06 AM by Eli Roberts
By Sonia W.

Leaving my grandmother’s home on a Sunday afternoon, car windows down, A/C on high, radio blasting, cruising the scenic back roads, I had no reason to rush home. All that waits for me is an oversized leather chair and yesterday’s Redbox movie. In sight is my favorite metal bridge, the Montopolis Bridge, beautifully constructed of large steel beams interwoven like an intricate crocheted sweater. Maybe this is why I love bridges, fascinating creatures, sitting tall and always inviting.

After I pass my first love, my eyes move eastward. An eerie, uneasy feeling encompasses my thoughts, “What on earth; where is that coming from?” In the distance, I can literally see billows of gray-black smoke camouflaging the bluest of skies. The black beast continues to grow and spread, acting as though it will engulf my city at any moment. My mind begins to race, “Is that coming from Bastrop?” Cautiously, I pull my car over to the edge of the highway. Sitting there in shock, I’m overwhelmed with emotion. “This can’t be happening.”

My first instinct is to call my mom. Out of habit, I anxiously fumble through my purse to find my phone, immediately realizing that I can call her through my vehicle’s Blue Tooth system. I scroll through my contacts to find her cell. The loud ringing scares the tar out of me and ferociously vibrates the speakers. “What the hell?!” In all my haste, I had forgotten to turn down the volume from my previous jam session. Now it rings, and I wait impatiently.

Rolling my eyes at mom’s voicemail message, I quickly punch in my childhood phone number, which was definitely quicker than the scrolling method I previously used. I knew by the third ring it was useless. As I sat, tears began to form and incessantly fall. “Why am I overcome with emotion? I don’t even know what’s really going on.” But the thought of this sinister monster engulfing my beloved home away from home has me overcome with grief.

“My home away from home?” I repeat out loud. I haven’t camped in Bastrop for years. In fact, the last time I camped there was in 1990. Maybe it’s the fact that, prior to my last camping trip, I spent so many years of my childhood religiously camping with my family every month. Family campouts in the Lost Pines defined my weekends as a child. I’m sure our outings weren’t as often as I thought they were, but each adventure left a visible and viable memory. The long days of swimming, boating, bike riding, and early morning fishing trips on the floating dock are etched in my memory. Watching my grandmother prepare the fish for cooking, I felt excitement when she nonchalantly moved over and allowed me to help her, explaining what she was doing in her broken English, mostly Spanish. Hardly listening and pretending to understand, I confidently grabbed hold of the knife, eagerly slicing off the head and tail, paying close attention to the bulging eyes and cat-like whiskers of this creature that I would later soak in ketchup.

I smile recalling the first time I learned how to play poker and how, over the years, I was able to perfect my game. I loved listening to the banter and laughter of all my relatives into the wee hours of the morning. How comforting it was to fall asleep to their voices and merriment knowing nothing could harm me.

As soon as I took a deep breath, my car’s sound system vibrated once again with an all too familiar sound. Glancing at the caller id, I realize it’s Mom. I quickly answer, “Momma?”

She replies, “You called? You okay?”

I finally catch my breath, “Mom, can you turn on the news? I’m pulled over because I can see tons of smoke coming from the east. What does the news say? Is it Bastrop?”

She sighs, “Yes mija, it is.” I can hear it in her voice too, the sadness. “It’s pretty bad. Come to the house, we can watch it on the news together. We can’t do anything about it right now. All we can do is pray and hope for the best.” I knew she would understand. I knew she felt the same way. Mothers always do.

I carefully check my mirrors and slowly pull back out onto the road leaving the beast behind. My windows are up and my radio is off. In complete silence, I coast to my childhood home. Memories continue to flood my mind, my tears continue to fall. I can’t help but smile knowing how lucky I was to have the privilege of loving those lost pines, the chance to see and experience their beauty. They may be gone for now, but they will return in abundance, with all their glory and grace.
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