I found it in the basement. Next to the old coats. A thermos my brother made in high school. It was basically just a thick layer of styrofoam over a glass jar. I had never had my own thermos. I was told a thermos had the power to keep warm things warm and cool things cool. How did it know? Doubtful, perhaps just as its maker, Tom, I wanted to test it out. I didn’t know it then, but I suppose I was looking for the assurance that it offered – the assurance of “it would be there.” The preparedness of no matter what the condition, it could be relied on to protect.
It was summer. My mom was at work. My brother had already started a new life. In the morning, I filled the thermos with ice water, and took it for a walk out into the sun of Hugo’s field. I could feel the heat against my bare arms. This would be a good test, I thought. I walked the mile to town. Opened the lid. Still cold. I smiled and walked back home. I was allowed to use the can opener and one burner. I opened a can of chicken noodle soup, off-brand, and emptied it into the pan. Heated it up. Poured it into the thermos and walked back to town. I sat on a bench by the railroad track. I forgot my spoon, so I took a small sip. It was still warm. It did know.
I took that thermos with me every day of that summer. Hot. Cold. It knew. By the end of August, the styrofoam started falling apart. Chunk by chunk. Just as our family had. With only a sunburn and a glass jar, I sat at the end of the driveway and waited for my mom to come home from work. The familiar sound of the Impala’s tires against the gravel echoed in my heart. Some things don’t last. Some people don’t stay. But my mother always did. No matter what the conditions. I never even had to test her. I just knew. This was the permanence I was looking for – what I carry with me, still today.