The Importance of Stars

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
The Importance of Stars is a short story about family and tragedy.

Submitted: September 24, 2012

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Submitted: September 24, 2012



My grandmother used to tell me a story about why stars are so beautiful. She would tell me that when a person passes away they don’t leave us. If they were good people in life they will become beautiful stars.

My grandmother taught me many things in the brief time we shared together. My earliest memories are of my grandmother speaking the Onondaga language to me. I would sit with her for hours, curled up in a blanket on the couch listening to her speak. We were like two cats, content to spend the entire day together, just lounging around. When we were alone together my grandmother would only speak Onondaga to me. In the company of others she would use both English and Onondaga. I asked her why and she said that we need to make everyone feel comfortable and language scares some people.

There are some things you should know about my grandmother, Edna Farmer. She was full blooded Onondaga. When I knew her she still had her black, thick, curly, shoulder length hair. She was tall, almost Amazonian. Her typical pants and sweaters, even in the summer, were for practical reasons. She was an outdoors-woman. Cutting logs for the fire, or working on her farm brought her joy. She grew up in the church but spoke Onondaga fluently. She was a very strong woman. After my grandfather passed away there were a few suitors that wanted to spend time with her. Edna Farmer was known for her hard-partying ways, her laughter, and her joy. Who wouldn’t want to spend time with her? One time there was a particularly eager gentleman that came around. He wouldn’t take no for an answer so my grandmother proceeded to throw stones at him until he left. The story is that she had a remarkably good aim. Her children were her life. She lost a son and daughter at young ages to drunk drivers. My father, aunt, and uncles rallied around my grandparents but Edna carried the loss for the rest of her life. Her stories would always include a little girl named Lucy, the daughter she lost. In her stories Lucy grew up to be a beautiful woman with a big, happy family.

Loss is somewhat of a common theme for my father’s family. My grandmother passed away when I was 6 years old. In her life she lost her husband, a son, and a daughter. I never met my grandfather, Isaiah, or my aunt Lucy or uncle Vernon, however I knew they were good people through the stories my grandmother told me. I share the same kind of stories about my cousin, Arlena, to her children.

Arlena was one of the most important people in my life growing up. She was what some people would call “crazy”. Arlena was known for her laughter. She is the only person I know who could find humor in a church sermon. I dreaded going to church. Long, boring sermons about how I will eventually end up in Hell. “Don’t drink or listen to rock and roll.” “If you lie you will go to Hell.” “Bad children who believe in Santa or the Easter Bunny must repent or go to Hell.” Arlena would laugh and say, “Well, there goes my Saturday night!” or “Pshht! He hasn’t even gotten to the bad sins yet and I am already in trouble!” The preacher would pound his bible on the pulpit, face red with anger. I would be so thankful that she was with us.

Arlena, or Beana, as she was known to everyone who loved her, was an easygoing spirit. She was slender, graceful, and extraordinarily beautiful. Beana loved sports. An avid softball player, she was well known for her skill on the field. If you were to visit the “Rez” on a Saturday you would probably find her at a lacrosse game, cheering on our cousins. Even during family gatherings, which always included volleyball, poor Beana would be placed on the team with the worst players, just so they had a chance to win!

As a child, after the loss of my grandmother, I was shy. Beana taught me to find laughter in the small things. She would pick me up in her beast of a car, Betsy. Betsy was loud, smelly, and held together with prayer and duct tape. We could hear Arlena coming from a mile down the road. “Hurry up and get ready! She’ll be here in 3 minutes!” we would yell. Our games together would include seeing how far we could get on whatever change we had in our pockets for gas. Arlena was killed in a drunken driving accident when I was 12 years old. She was a 22 year old mother of two. Her daughters were 1 years old and 3 years old. I continue my grandmother’s tradition by telling them stories of their mother.

My brother’s best friend, Corey, would always listen to the stories we told of people who passed on to become stars. His favorite story was the one about my grandmother’s aim. He loved hearing the stories we told every night after dinner. Sitting around the table we would start with “Remember the time when Beana...” or “Remember when Gram...” Corey would just sit back and relax, listening to everyone laugh and reminisce.

 Corey didn’t have a healthy family life. Many times he would come home on the bus with us, pretending to fall asleep and miss his stop. Our bus driver would be so mad, often yelling at us and threatening to call our parents but she eventually learned to deal with it. How can you stop a 16 year old boy from doing what he wants anyway? My parents would return home from work, exhausted. If my mom ordered take out she would always get extra food. Corey was always expected to be there when they got home. Our family dinners always included an extra setting.

My brother, Mike, was not the most loved kid in high school. He was good with girls, having grown up with 3 younger sisters at home. Boys his age would feel threatened by him. Corey was Mike’s backup. Many times Corey would come to our house with scratches and bruises. When asked what happened he would laugh and say, “Mike has a new girlfriend”. Mike and Corey were like Larry and Curly, without Mo. Many times we would find them target shooting without targets, instead with glass bottles filled with gasoline. Sometimes you would hear a loud yell, followed by the bitter smell of burnt hair. Either Mike or Corey had just lost an eyebrow. My parents would laugh at the sight of them!

Corey soon became a big brother to my sisters and me. We had just moved to a small school from a much larger school. Navigating the new social scene was tricky, but with Corey’s help we figured out the social order pretty quickly. He was smiling, even when getting in trouble. Our house soon became a home for Corey. After school sessions would include blasting the radio, turning the volume past 11. Impromptu dance sessions would break out to songs by KoRn, Metallica, The Who, and Rage Against the Machine. Corey and Mike would slam dance while my sisters and I would laugh! Corey’s crazy, unkempt long hair would fly around, often smacking my brother in the face. There was an ill-advised piercing session one time. I remember lots of blood and Corey with a needle; my brother just had his ear pierce. Despite the love Corey received in our home he was still profoundly unhappy. At the age of 19 years old Corey committed suicide. His bright star in life became a star we could only see at night.

I tell my stories of the people I loved to help remember them. Their laughter, good deeds, smiles, these memories always brings a smile to my face. My grandmother taught me these stories have meaning; they help you feel safe and loved when you can’t see the people in the stories anymore. I miss my grandmother, my cousin, and my friend dearly. The memories I have of them, the stories I share help me to realize they were real, they really loved, and they loved deeply. When I feel alone and sad I know that I can always see them, in the night sky, shining down at me.

© Copyright 2019 Suzy Farmer. All rights reserved.

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