Your soul is a garden of roses. Eternal. Shielded in strength. Evermore beautiful.
~ forehead kiss
Edit. Edit. Edit.
Cut. Cut. Cut.
Read. Read. Read.
“Write our story,” she says.
It’s warm in the shoebox of her room. The ceiling is high and vaulted, walls the palest shade of blue: ‘frost,’ as designer’s coo. If one looks up, one can imagine an open roof and paper-white clouds. The windows are long to let in light. There is a view of a tot playground. My mother sits for hours in her wheelchair and delights in their movement.
” I’ve been deep in a mine, extracting memories.”
Puzzled by this comment, she shakes her head. The topic shifts.
“I haven’t seen the children today.”
“It’s Sunday, Mom. Tomorrow they’ll return.”
She glances toward the sky. Time is determined by the setting of the sun and the tiny rituals that fill her day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The children are always just beyond reach.
“There’s always Bingo.”
” Anna. I’m not a Bingo gal,” she says, “Never been my style. I went the other night. With Doris. She’s a dear one. We get a kick out of watching the others. Neither of us can hear.”
I reach for a hearing aide that lays on a table.
“This is why I like a calendar,” she says, “keeps me on top of my schedule.”
She takes a novel from the shelf and opens it, a signal to leave her be. There is control in solitude. All the sounds, smells, and personalities that enter her space are familiar. Chosen objects remain on display: a trio of Benedictine monks, a cluster of carved birds, and two oil paintings. Long ago, she stopped listening to music. Lately, she has taken up with the Scottish Clans.
“As a child, I wore a swath of The Black Watch tartan pinned to my skirt.”
When night falls, she steals away to Inverness. I picture her, dark hair flowing, standing atop a hillside, scanning a lowland loch.
A memory returns. It is 1967. My mother walks into the living room and drops a box in front of me.
She watches as I lift the cardboard flap, waits as I remove the book from the box. It is bigger than most books. The jacket is divided into a grid. Each square contains a different photograph: Dinsoaurs, Space and Galaxies, Early Man, and what looks to be a World On Fire.
“It’s for you. From ‘Time Magazine.’ Read it. Do something besides sit by the window.”
I look up. She has left.
The heat in the room smothers. I resist an urge to climb a chair, open a window for fear her diminutive self, wings formed and ready, might slip out, allowing her to soar beyond reach.
“I’m shivering,” she says. “Somebody hasn’t paid the heating bill.”
My head bows toward the floor. It’s surface reflects back like polished glass. I see myself: daughter, sister, woman.
Her voice interrupts.
“Anna. What are you waiting for?”
“The finish line is in sight.”
She sits up, one eyebrow raised. The novel that’s held her attention, waits.
Is she pleased with my answer? The burden is heavy and the price high. There is a certain humility necessary if one is to be the keeper of a story. There are emotions to protect. It’s not a passing fancy. If I fail to honour and instead drop each character like stone, can she forgive me? There is fact within fiction. Can we forgive one another?
“Well. This is news,” she says.
Our stories are patient. They accrue over years with interest. Little, big memories. Memories collected like scattered pearls. Waiting. They wait for someone to polish and toss them across the page. Once set loose, the windswept moments we’ve treasured, the landmines we’ve navigated, are no longer ours.
“Bring it to me. Hurry up. I won’t be here forever.” She opens her novel and drops ino a scene from World War 2.
Stories. There is nothing in the world more powerful. Set free, stories travel, become messengers of peace, conduits of love, beacons in the dark. If we listen, stories can challenge and comfort.
I did not ask to be a memory keeper, the child who watched and listened, who carried her own world. I write for her: the little dreamer, the quiet one, the timid and the brave. I write to understand why it is that the people we love the most, can wound us so deeply.
I write to find beauty in the clutter and to show her that I remember. I heard her cry behind a closed door. Carrying a heavy load of sorrow can crack open the strongest of hearts. I remind her to exhale. We walk together on this journey. Even as paths twist and the forest deepens, I’ll stand by her side.
Tiny shoots from the seeds of Hope, break through the hard scrabble. Hope is the anchor in our storm. It’s the lonesome dove perched upon the windowsill. It is all the words we couldn’t say until now. It’s the jewel found buried deep in ash.
Darkness shadows my mother’s face, softening her features. There is something about her eyes. This evening, they burn bright.
“You are more than capable,” she says.
“I’ve put a lot into it-“
“I’m sure you have. You always do.”
She wheels her chair to face me and lifts my hand.
“Finish it. For us.”
~ Jacqueline and Anna (Draft 7)
I imagine you in your other world
Watching over me.
A star falling from an inky sky.
An acorn found in spring.
The question I can’t answer.
The forgotten song I sing.
“I’ve held on to you for so long. Sometimes, I forget to breathe.”
“And I wish I had known him when he was younger
Before he had exchanged his smile for a mask
I would have begged for a ride on his motorcycle
The one he left in pieces on the dirt floor of a wooden shed.”
Once upon a time, two children planted a Lilac bush. Inch by inch the bush grew taller until it towered over the garden. In spring, the blossoms bowed, heavy with rain.
Lost in time, the children crept behind a wall of heart shaped leaves and bloom, playing until contented from perfume. Hands shook the branches, feet crushed the errant petals.
“A path for the bees,” they said.
+ say it
one of life’s great truths, the simpler the better.
Seated at a roadside table
Her knee pressed yours
One timeless moment
You can’t forget
The girl with the rain soaked eyes.
She holds sorrow as a mother holds a newborn babe
And you are young again and safe
In the arms of the girl with the rain soaked eyes.
You’ll say you’ve moved on yet find yourself lost in the folds of her dress,
young again and it’s your first kiss
While night turns away, she circles back
And you are a moth to light
For the girl with the rain soaked eyes.
She paints roses.
I grow them.
She listens to Julie.
I listen to Kat.
She favours lean prose.
I toss word bouquets across the page.
She’s a realist.
I’m a hopeless romantic.
My mother, her daughter.
• Kat Edmonson
• Julie London