upon the salsify

morning dew

both … at rest

I felt my mother settle beside me as I picked up a photograph … four generations of women, “you seem fragile sitting there with a half smile. I didn’t see your aging … the tellings of you as a grandmother … a great grandmother.  It is as if I remained within a 6 year-old time frame while you rode a time train into your future.”  

Eyes glistening and an acknowledging smile and nod, “Within an album is another image, a faded photograph … unique to the 60s and 70s.  Together, on a couch…your grandmother, you, E, and I.  Four generations.” 

My left arm wrapped around your waist…my right hand reaching towards E.  B, sitting on her mom’s lap, her dress pulled up … hiding her face, as toddlers are known to do, playing pick-a-boo.  It is as if I was a conduit … arms reaching through the barriers of time…connecting each of you to the other.

Two moments of togetherness…four separate lives within one time frame … a telling of our ancestral heritage. 

Tomorrow a birthday celebration, your great great granddaughter.  Within her unabashed joy, glimpses of you. 

olden memories

so brisk

in their fading

100 days 56

A pocket-sized hard board notebook…forest green within a package mailed from California.  Black and white photographs of extended family…lent not given…to be returned to sender.  

Within the notebook her father’s carefully written numbers…some lists seemed to be Union Pacific Railroad time schedules while others household expenses.  In the back – two facing pages – a written exchange between a father and daughter.

She was his first born.  She loved him.  She felt his love and his gift of inclusiveness.  

She knew her grandmother’s love.  Sitting together in a rocking chair her grandmother reading aloud biblical scriptures, “I did not know what she was reading from the Bible. It was enough sitting on her lap…being close.”

His smoking…she loved watching him roll his cigarettes…and evenings at the neighborhood bar, two sources of discontent within the family.

It has been told that she sometimes accompanied him to that bar during family visits.  There was that time, father and daughter sitting together at the bar … her mother and siblings outside at the window looking in.

They were walking together to the train station…the state mandated her education be a placement within a school for the deaf.  When she first began school she was enrolled in the school in Idaho. Later, a transfer to Salem, a new state requirement – enrollments to be within the state.  Home visits, family celebrations and holidays were now difficult to arrange.

His words … written words messaging understanding and reassurance.  A writing style evoking calm.  Her writing  – a resigned resistance.

When she was 14 … away at school, a fatality at the railway roundhouse. 

spring’s rain

memories of lost years

left by a cloud

I searched for her … my mother …. I waited through lunch, but she did not visit today.   I sat, meditated, read a page or two.  Yet, the scattered crumbs of memory blew away in a whirlwind of restlessness. 

My grandmother did visit for a bit and left me wondering…am I like you?  Sensitive, irritable, exhausted.  As a child I was often overwhelmed by my own sensitivity to her presence…once I carried a long forgotten incident between us to my mother seeking resolution … comfort. I instead found,  “That is her way.” 

That is her way…

It seemed as though in her absence L was invited to visit as I remembered his poetry.  With a manual typewriter, his carefully composed words on white paper.  Where are those papers?

Where are the poems hand written on scraps of paper…recycled holiday cards…mailed over the years?  Poems written before the tremors silenced my mother’s hands…where are they?  One spoke to me of acceptance…how her walker was her friend. 

Slipped into books…as if they were flower blossoms?  Tucked away into little wooden boxes … as they are treasures?

Where are those books…the wooden boxes?  

Were they given away?  Did I cast them aside unknowing ….

billowing

incense smoke –

drifting,

remembering…

100 days 48

Peets’ coffee beans releasing its rich earthy scent throughout the house as the grinder cracks the beans with its annoying pulsating grating sounds. The scent of coffee easing away this irradiation as well as my morning mental fog…the rich, complex scent of dark roasted coffee.

Waiting to lick the spoon – to be shared with all who was home – I watched her stir the cake ingredients into a silky smooth batter. Then the ritual of pouring the batter into two greased and lightly floured round cake pans, the lifting a pan about 3 inches above the kitchen counter top and dropping it with a bang, “Air bubbles…we want then to escape from the batter.”

Closing the oven door, “if we open the door too early and if we are too rowdy, the cake will fall.”

A slightly tilted two-layered coffee flavored birthday cake with caramel flavored frosting. Burning candles randomly inserted waiting to receive a secret wish that will be carried away in the billowing smoke. A long forgotten birthday guest sitting across from me…skewed eye brows that said, “huh?”

A birthday cake recipe that included the morning coffee. Coffee that had filled the house with the faint scent of pungent earth and metal and the sounds of the gas stove’s circular flames. Flames that brought the water to boil and then lowered to insured the continual flow of water through Folger’s grounds beans.

She loved coffee. Coffee with milk and sugar. Yet, for us coffee was one of the three absolute Nos. Coffee, cigarettes, and alcohol. No discussion. End of sentence…full stop.

With a hidden agenda of nudging her to relent, I once described how my best friend’s 4 year-old brother would sit at their morning table and drink coffee with his mom, she replied, “That is their home.” End of discussion..full stop.

Huh? A coffee flavored birthday cake? For my 12th birthday?

An unknown added ingredient…a mother’s gift. A mother’s love bending the rules…just this one time.

Coffee flavored birthday cake

  • 2 1/2 cups shifted flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup of whole milk
  • 8 oz (2 sticks) of butter
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup of strong coffee
  • 1 tablespoon of mother’s love
  • Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean

Trailed with clouds

The layered memories

Of time forever gone

Stands between us now

This spring dawn

100days...doubleexposure

“Sometimes it’s best to not talk…to keep away from people…my words, twisted and turned…misunderstood.”

My mother came to visit this morning as I read the news often filled with subjective narrative built upon passing responses to thrown at you questions.

She shared with me the anxiety hidden behind exchanges with others…within her words. Words often misunderstood…mis-translated. Words I, as a resistant teenager, often dismissed as ill-informed or un-founded.

It was mid-morning when told me that in a few days she would begin work at the hospital as a dietitian. A week ago an unknown woman came to her home – unannounced – to interview her for the position. During the interview, a written question, “Can you cook?”

“I invited her into the kitchen and showed her my stove…’of course I can cook! I raised a family!’ Did she think because I am deaf I cannot cook!”

Her history of negation, marginalization, inequality, and misunderstood awakened by the question. My anger was triggered by the fact that a job interview took place within her home … an unannounced visit. The invasion of her home…the broken boundary between work and family.

Today within this journey of remembrance is a new seed of understanding..it was my perspective of human rights, of equality, of what is right and what is wrong which blocked me from the golden moment of opening myself to her truth…to the her of who she was behind her deafness.

blossoms scatter

never knowing

our regrets

          ~Ouchi Masahiro*

100days...33days

 

Fragments of memories sewed together with multiple threads of colored thoughts and feelings. As if to create a quilt…a quilt of memories…a life confirmed. Memories forgotten, hidden away, rejected…invisible quilt pieces…segments of emptiness.

My mother knew marginalization from the moment scarlet fever left her in a sound-void world reliant upon sight, touch, and feeling: dancing hands in the air, a light touch upon the shoulder, and pulsating vibrations.

She silently connected with her children through changes of vibrations…walking from one room to another, closing and opening of drawers, cupboards, and doors. Children free from “indoor voice” restraints; yet, moderated through visual and vibrating variations.

The house will filled with the sounds of snapping and clapping of hands dancing in the air – accompanied with spontaneous voice sounds.  Feet stomping on floors, hands hitting flat surfaces or waving in the air, replacing a voice calling for another.  The sounds of family games played simply for the fun of playing inserted with the sound of joy’s winning. And then followed with her graceful hands that sang, ”Should we play again?” 

My mother and I blush…we most likely were the loudest family in the neighborhood.

As the sound of a single birdsong came into the window, my mother’s eyes watched as my hands clumsily hesitated in the air. The faded muscle memory of our home language tried to question if I learned to “read and formulate internal speech” through a greater reliance on sight, touch, and feeling than hearing.

I see her words…I piecemeal each movement together…I formulate sentences…I hear her words.

There is sadness in the shared remembrance of the moment our confidence in understanding one another suddenly vanished. She, a patient, recovering from carpal tunnel surgery on both wrists. She, lying in the hospital bed, unable to sign, speaking…saying words I could not understand … no vague sense of knowing, just variations of a high pitched voice. 

I left the hospital room… a segment of our relationship had been severed. Saddened and overwhelmed by the experience of my loss and her vulnerable and alone helplessness.

*cited:

Haiku before Haiku

Trans: S Carter

Morning haze

jewels of rain, falling

in a dream

100days...raindrop

My mother came to visit … she sat quietly as my stream of consciousness meandered through childhood valleys of fairness…equity…justice.

Exhaustion seemed to fill the home whenever as she strived to moderate peace and calm, especially calm, during sibling battles that suddenly erupted at the kitchen table – cause … long forgotten, exploded during board games – cause … clear evidence of cheating, erupted during Saturday’s chores – cause … unequal distribution of work assignments, shattered during floor rough and tumble play – cause … physical injury.

“I told you to quit before someone got hurt!”

Within a photo album, a polaroid image of a smiling young me in a light blue coat. With long strawberry blond hair, I stand with a Coke in hand. A princess with a trophy in hand.

A Coke or any soda pop was a rare treat…Koolaid was, “a good enough” drink. What one cannot discern from the photograph is, “You need to finish that before we leave. I don’t want to hear, It’s not fair.”

A photo tucked away in her purse. Hidden evidence of unfairness…a momentary gift of peace.

The true person is
Not anyone in particular;
But, like the deep blue color
Of the limitless sky,
It is everyone, everywhere in the world
.

~Eihei Dōgen

Nikon D750 f/1.8 1/4000 35mm 200 ISO


Yesterday my mother came to visit…it was a remembered touch that announced her arrival not as the frail woman with a fierce determination time had transformed from the woman who carried with her the stature of Danish Vikings…warriors, explorers, conquerors, survivors.  The English genes of a woman whose life was colored by an incessant search for security, an unquestioning moral and social mandate, and an aloneness I did not know. 

She visited as my mom and walked alongside me as I gathered the ingredients for homemade soup, she watched me — with discerning eyes — as I made the bed and gathered the laundry, and she sat with me as I flipped through a photo book of fading memories. Memories…the mundane moments swept away into darkness by brooms of discontent, negation, and yes…shame. The shame that arises from a felt sense of a marginalized family’s “being different.”

She woke the memory within the shifting images of a night when I saw her sitting alone within the silence of deafness nested within the silence of night.  Before her was a topsy-turvy pile of children’s scuffed and worn shoes. I watched her from the doorway, hiding as I did not want to be sent back to bed, slowly polishing each one and then matching them into pairs, forming a straight row — creating a sense of order.  When her eyes acknowledged my presence, she invited me to sit alongside her.  Moments passed as I felt her listening presence…a mother and a daughter sitting quietly in a dimly lit room, a protective barrier. 

As this remembering faded, I felt a gentle gaze that spoke of a silent loving-kindness. It was as if she came from a place of waiting knowing that the barriers that blocked me from being receptive to the multiple color threads that weaved her life had begun to weaken and fade and — for the first time — I entered, felt, and embraced her aloneness. And she, in return, eased the discontent that ebbs and flows throughout this time of uncertain isolation.

I have often wondered, since her passing, that if we had met – not as mother-daughter but as children in a playground would she have wanted to be my friend?

First published on April 2, 2020 … Stay at Home Order … day 8