I’VE GONE TO SEE THE ROSES. (A story from The Mama Vault)
For thirty-four years, I’ve thought of motherhood as it applied to me. I’ve chronicled the ebb and flow of it–written about the continuous fine tuning of my heart regarding the holding on and letting go of my own children.
All the while in the background, there was a letting go running parallel and concurrent to mine–a releasing very much in sync with me. It was a quiet release–a graceful one. An unselfish one. It was never written about, at least not by me, until this very moment, because only now do I see it for the lovely thing it was. And is.
I’d forgotten that to someone else, I was the child being continuously released.
For almost fifty-nine years I had a mother, and for almost fifty-nine years I was her child. She called me Daney. Her name was Glenda Faye.
She was beautiful, and she loved me with her whole heart every day she breathed. Well, there might have been a few off days, but let’s not split hairs. Even when I had my own life and grew busy in it, she loved me. She gave me space to tend to my life, and she began to tend to her pretty pink roses, because a mother’s tending has to go somewhere. Where once she’d gardened me with her hands, she began to garden me with her heart–in that secret place where she could, without my knowing, pluck and pray away the weeds I didn’t see growing. It’s the way this motherhood thing goes down, I’m learning.
I see it now–the song and dance of it. She held my hand from the minute I was born and I held hers until the minute she was gone. The in-between was real and crazy and loving. It was gritty and alive and maddening– all of it one extravagant gift, the fullness and meaning of which I’m only beginning to see.
One month and some days after.
It’s just like her to plant something that patiently waited to show itself until now. She was good at cultivating a surprise.
When I was twenty one, I was helping Mom color her hair in the bathroom. In another room of the house, my then-boyfriend/now-husband sat with my dad. We had an inkling, my mother and I, their discussion might have something to do with a blessing to marry. There was way too much nervous energy and curiosity in that tiny bathroom that night, so Mom did the thing that came naturally to her. While Clairol honey-blonde color worked its magic on her roots, she painstakingly crawled on her hands and knees through the living room to eavesdrop, looking back at me along the way as she tried to stifle her laughter, which would’ve totally foiled our plan.
I don’t even remember the outcome.
I just remember Mom.
And the joy of her. The fun of her.
I remember it in the way her eighty-year-old spry self effortlessly climbed the steep stairs to my house–powered by her brown Chuck Taylors–all for a few minutes together with me and a good cup of coffee.
She sowed joy in our ordinary days together. It’s like she planted all these little seeds in me along the way, and they’re beginning just now to break through the soil–emerging as these deeply-rooted, brightly-colored happy stories. She’d clearly been planning it all along with every story we made together. And on the days when the stories find me again, Glenda Faye is still fully alive.
Surprise. Here I am.
I’m smiling now, as I write, because I can almost hear her say those words–her slightly irreverent and always “to-the-left-of-center” sense of humor oozing from every letter in the sentence.
It’s the gift she left for me so I would smile. It’s the next best thing to having her here.
I walked the block from my house to hers today. I checked the mailbox. I went inside just to make sure everything was okay. I sat at the piano for a minute. I suppose all I’m really doing is looking for her–some piece of her. I don’t think it’s possible to untangle the ache for her from the joy of her. It’s all mixed together. I’m waiting for something in my gut to settle down. I sat in the backyard for a bit. She would love how it’s coming alive now. I almost looked right past the metal sign she hung on the fence a long time ago–the familiarity of it causing me to nearly miss it. I read the scripted words written over green paint–all of it beginning to fade.
I’ve gone to see the roses.
And so you have Mom. So you have. I hear they’re really something over there.