As some of you may know, 2011 was a rough year. In early 2012, I started writing a very short essay titled, "The Going and the Staying." It came together quickly and I've been pitching it around ever since. Thankfully it landed in Under the Gum Tree, a publication dedicated to sharing true stories without shame.

While I haven't shared many personal essays in this space in the past, I thought it was about time I start. Here's an excerpt from that piece:

"The Going and the Staying" -- Jennifer E. Snyder for  Under the Gum Tree

The “zzzzzip” as I open the door to the camping tent is one of few audible sounds that morning. Stepping through the entry, I turn and look over my shoulder as my husband rustles himself from sleep. 

It’s my twenty-ninth birthday. 

Birds sing as the sun rises and we prepare our pre-hike coffee and tea. I am fairly certain we’re the only souls yet awake.

My mind wanders to a place disconnected from the dusty gravel underfoot and lands on the days leading up to this trip. Just over a month prior, I had been helping my family care for one of the most opinionated, cheeky and wise women I will ever know.

I could still see my Nana lying in the room she had once shared with my Papa. Frail, uncertain and so incredibly tired. She was dying.

In an instant I snap back to the present. I feel the earth beneath my feet and the crisp autumn air on my skin. “Shake it off,” I think to myself.

I smile up at my husband, not because he’s spreading peanut butter on our lunchtime sandwiches in a particularly delightful way, but because I cannot shake it off. 

Again I drift, remembering how Nana’s eyes lit up when I announced our upcoming trip to Yosemite. 

Throughout my impressionable teenage and young adult years, Nana’s pat response to the news of travel was always, “Go. Go now. Don’t wait.” Though she could hardly speak the day I tearfully hovered over her bed and told her about the trip, she had looked at me with wide, bright eyes, grasped my hand and mouthed the words, “Good . . . good.” The edges of her mouth turned slightly upward as she patted my hand, settled back onto the bed and closed her eyes.


As I mentioned, the excerpt above is from a short nonfiction essay recently published in the latest issue of Under the Gum Tree. To read the full essay and all of the beautifully told true stories in the magazine, please find digital and print copies here.