awakened by spring’s breezes
awakened by spring’s breezes
in their fading
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.
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 ….
incense smoke –
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
Trailed with clouds
The layered memories
Of time forever gone
Stands between us now
This spring dawn
“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.
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.
Haiku before Haiku
Trans: S Carter
The existence of a speck of dust makes everything possible. If dust does not exist, neither does the universe, nor you, nor I. ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Upon a trunk is a framed photograph of my mother, a hand painted photograph, of her when she was young. When my eyes linger I’m introduced to unabashed joy. Before it are three small framed images … her first born – my sister D, and her two sons – C and L.
It is an image of my mother I do not hold in memory…invisible like my father’s. It is of a young woman before she was a widow with three children, a twice divorced, and finally a woman married to T, her first love.
She named her sons after their fathers. Her last two born are daughters, M and S. Within M’s name is Faith. Within S’s name, Joy. A mother’s blessing.
Then there is I…her second born who as a teen exhausted her. “Do I have to?” she responded to a police officer’s question, “Is this your child?”
A mother-daughter relationship defined as “complex.”
My secret childhood fantasy was to come home from school — the afternoon sun warming the kitchen…she standing in the kitchen — and I would hear, “Be more gentle when closing the door.”
Not the vibrations of more gentle but the sounds of more gentle. She could hear…she could hear me…my voice. My faith, my faith despite being the size of a mustard seed was felt by God.
She has come to visit many times as I dust these photographs … often remembering the visit after L’s funeral. She shared that the only time in her life she regretted being deaf was after I told her that within the sound of his girlfriend’s voice was D’s.
This I believe open the door to the realization that if my childhood self had succeeded in finding and pulling out the thread of deafness in the tapestry of my mother’s life, she would no longer be. If she no longer was, then the universe of my life would not exist. It was she, her total being that made everything possible.
My mother came to walk alongside me as I noticed a parked school bus. Brilliant yellow, unmistakably school bus yellow. It was small…a seat row larger than the one D and I rode to school during those two years we were living on the farm.
She and I reminisced about the scent of fresh baked bread that would welcome D and I home and the school dresses she made at the beginning of the 4th grade. I think there is a first day of the fourth grade photograph in which I’m wearing one of those dresses. Smiling…hanging on a wooden aged fence.
She silently listened as I thought of school, friends, 4-H, swimming, and reading. Today, I suddenly realized that it never came into my mind to consider what life was for her living on the farm with four children in a 10-wide trailer away from family and friends. She in Colorado. They in Oregon/California. No phone…just the postal service. No radio. No television.
Silence. Silence was her life-long companion. The silence I recently have become acquainted with when a snippet of the mediation bell simply disappears.
She trusted life within that small rural community. She never said, “No” to weekends away from home…sleep overs that began on a Friday after school and ended on Sunday after church. She never questioned which church. There was that moment she did frown and say, “I don’t like that” as I described a Sunday service.
She greeted each friend that walked into the home with a smile…the authentic smile…the eye smile.
After we moved into town I roamed through a backyard that extended south to the Yampa River, north over the creek and up the hill behind our home, and to the eastern and western edges of town.
During that summer the only concerns she expressed was to be home before dark and to wait an hour after eating as I would join a group of friends on the dirt path to the Yampa river with worn, faded, and tattered bath towels draped over our shoulders. Black inner tubes of various sizes dragged behind us filling the air with the pungent scent of faded rough rubber. The sounds of splashing water and laughter would fill the air as we gathered along the river bank and swam to the sandbar.
No parents…no supervision. Freedom. My mother gifted me freedom.
The morning chill came through an open window. The morning had begun its transformation from black to variations of dark blues to lighter hues outlining night’s black shadows. It had just passed…the morning ritual. The magical moment of silence in which all of the world — right before the sun’s rays lightens the sky — seems to hush in stillness. Then in the distance one songbird followed by another as if a congregation’s “Amen.”
My mother came to visit. I may have called her as I, with a cup of steaming tea, looked up at the antique framed cross stitch hanging on the dining room wall.
It was during one of those rare visits to her home in which she shared a beautiful piece of counted cross stitch. I saw the delight in her face as she told me it was a gift…a gift of gratitude to someone unknown to me…a stranger. Aged old jealously rose unbidden and formed a barrier between mother and daughter.
And then, “Would you like one?”
“Yes! Please let me frame it.”
Within an antique framed cross stitch…a magical moment. An exchange of love and validation.