Sitting in the passenger seat at 8 years old,
as my mom drove down the road,
I was staring at my reflection in the car window.
Self critical even when so little
“I hate the shape of my eyes”
And my mom turned her head and smiled wide.
I always thought her smile was like sunshine,
capable of piercing through the darkest of clouds.
“Why?” was the only word that left her mouth.
My mother’s optimism was a gift.
She could find a way to take any negative and give it a positive twist
“Blue eyed girl, they are beautiful,” she said to me
They have an almond shape and someday you’ll agree
I see my grandmother in your eyes and even me!”
And then she laughed and her laugh will
echo through all of my days.
She nodded “I do. I see me in you.”
And then she put her hand next to mine
and I was surprised at what I was to find.
Our hands were the same,
just different in size and age,
and when I looked back my eyes
were different somehow.
They were something that
kept me connected to those before me
and who are with me now.
She will always be close by.
Even when she leaves this life,
a leaf leaving our family tree,
drifting to the ground and laid to rest at my feet.
I wonder who will come after her
and who will come after me?
What new life will I get to see?
What new branches will spring
from out of our old tree?
My mom brought magic to my childhood.
She planted the seed of my imagination. She was passing on her favorite coping mechanism, the one that helped her survive this life when this life had been overwhelming. She was able to turn sick days into beautiful memories. She turned storms into a chance for our family to bond.
One of my favorite memories involving my mother was a night when a storm had washed through western Washington with a fury! When I was growing up, we would have storms that would knock our electricity out for weeks, but the home my father had built us was all wood heat, and my mother had a wood cook-stove so even when the power was out we were able to eat a warm meal.
Windstorms meant that the following week would be busy, hauling fallen trees with my father and Uncle Warren, and chopping wood with my brother and cousins, stocking the woodshed and preparing ourselves for the upcoming winters. I didn’t know that heat could be turned on by the press of a button until I was twenty years old and had my first apartment.
One night when both my brother and I were shy of our double digits, my mother woke us up in the middle of the night, meeting our groggy, pajama bottomed selves with hot chocolate she had already prepared.
“Dad’s outside, come on you two!” She had said to my brother and I, who grabbed our hot chocolates as we rubbed the sleep out of our eyes. And then we met my father, who was waiting for us on the front porch of the home he had built with the help of the other men in the neighborhood, and we watched as the night sky glowed an eerie purple, where the silhouette of the evergreens were easily seen, whipping precariously against the unseen force of the wind.
We sat, the four of us, side by side on a porch swing that would never fit the four of us again! Our bodies sardined next to one another with a blanket to keep us warm. The ferocity of the storm frightened me! The sound of the wind as it ripped through the forest in front of our home, the sound of limbs and branches and trees breaking mercilessly against it’s force. We watched as the sky lit up with lightening, and thunder cracked over our heads, my dad with his arm around me, when he felt me flinch.
I remember what it was to know I was safe, even when the world around me seemed to be crashing down.
My mom planted imagination in me when I was so young I could hardly speak, back when she would tuck my brother to bed at night in the hide-a-bed at the cabin. Every night before we went to bed, my mom would tell us a story…
“Where do you want to fall asleep tonight?” She would ask.
“The mountains!” My brother would say. I would usually mimic whatever he said…”Yeah, mow-ten.”
“Ok, so close your eyes…I’m going to tell you where you are right now….” And she would begin a story, and paint a picture that I would disappear into, and then drift off peacefully into my dreams…
My imagination is a seed I will be taking with me into the future.