It was Mothers Day and I had returned home for a visit. We had not spoken to each other in over a year. I wondered, as I sat in my car looking at the house I grew up in, if I could even get out of the car. And if I could get out of the car and walk up the daffodilled path to her front door, would she open the door and smile? Would she cry? Or would she turn around and slam the door? And then I wondered to my awful dismay, what had we truly argued about that was so terrible to bring about so much pain? I realized that too much time had passed and it didnt matter anymore. My heart ached to see her. The key to my mothers house felt cold in my hand.
I looked at her manicured lawn; her impeccably kept garden beds. Daffodils and tulips shot up under the big bay windows; she had already done her planting and raking. I could see her in my minds eye, sitting on the grass, leaning over into the beds with her small hand rake. The only way to really clean up is to get right in there and do it by hand, she always used to say. I felt so incredibly sad when I realized that cleaning out the flower bed used to be my job when I was just a young child. God, I felt so terribly old now and I was only twenty-two.
Finally I made the plunge and got out of my car. I made my way into my mothers home with a twist and a click of the key. "Mother ?" She did not expect me, and since I was her only child and Daddy was gone, I wasnt too surprised that the house was quiet. I had tried to get here in the morning in case the day was a bust, but it was almost twelve in the afternoon. Maybe she went out with friends for lunch. After all, it was Mothers Day and her only child hadnt even called her. Why should this day be any different?
The house felt cold as I made my way down the foyer, past the coat rack and small teacart. I could her the ageless tic-toc-tic-toc of the grandfather clock. It felt so strange to actually hear that sound again. Perhaps because I hadnt heard it in over a year or because of the eerie quiet of the house. I realized more and more as I smelled the house, that old scent of home; saw the simple, comforting surroundings, how deeply I missed my mother. I hurried further down the hall. My first place to check would be the tiny den. Perhaps she was in there, or was she upstairs taking a nap?
I sensed her before I even saw her. She was sitting in her old beat up recliner, the seat tilted all the way back and she was sound asleep. An old knitted afghan which I remember her knitting a long time ago, was on her lap. The television set was off, but she had been reading Homes and Garden that was still in her hand. She always fell asleep after reading just a little while. Her reading glasses were hanging slightly off the bridge of that long fine nose, her breathing soft through her open mouth. I smiled to myself, she had on a touch of lipstick. Always lipstick, sometimes no make-up at all, but always lipstick. I did not want to wake her so I watched her from the shadows of the hall. I thought I saw a few more gray hairs in her curly brown mop. She was an older mother, she had me late in her life at age thirty-eight. Perhaps it was why we fought so bitterly sometimes. I was as headstrong as she was, but she was so set in her ways.
Eventually I made myself walk further into the room, deciding I should let her sleep just a little while longer. Besides, I wanted to savor the quietness of my childhood home. I sat on the couch directly in front of her and she stirred a bit. She smiled. It was almost as if she knew I had arrived and she felt safe; like I felt with her. I could hear the chickadees outside the open window and remembered all the times we dragged the big yellow seed bucket outside to feed "all our birds" with. Yes, it all felt very nice, but I was truly homesick and I felt like crying. I had so much on my mind and I was filled with such trepidation on the way over. Would she still even love me after all that had happened? She was such a hot head sometimes! And why didnt she try to even call me? She knew where my apartment was knew my phone number. I wiped a tear with the back of my hand. My hands were shaking a little. I settled back into the thick cushions of the couch and closed my eyes.
"Jenny ?" She sat up slowly, and the recliner brought her slippered feet back to the floor. "Oh, Jenny, youve come home!" She started to cry as she got up to come over to me. But I was already there in her arms, hugging her and crying, too.
And there we were, in the kitchen like I hadnt ever left. Mother was busy brewing tea, chattering away about flowers, her job, this and that, and how good it was to see me. And I listened and listened and listened. It was good for the moment, but I knew that soon we would have to talk about other things, not surface things, but feelings and such. But for now it felt good. I watched as she moved about her kitchen with ease and grace and realized how simple she kept her life. Sunlight dappled through the half-open blinds in the kitchen. There were beams of dust playing slightly, swirling around and around. It was almost magical in my sentimental state of mind. My mother and I talked on either sides of these beams of light, and I felt almost as if it were a bridge that separated us like age. But she was still a strong woman whom I realized I admired very much. My mother was a lifetime of simple but monumental accomplishments in my eyes. And I knew as I sat there watching her puttering around getting the mugs and spoons that nothing ever again would let us fight like that. Nothing was as important as sitting in the kitchen catching up on life and just being with each other.
Finally she sat down at the tiny kitchen table with a sigh. She reached over and grabbed my hand in hers. Her hands felt warm and dry. "Jenny, I just didnt want you to ever leave Im sorry I didnt let you be your own person "
"No, its okay " I tried to say.
"Jenny, you dont understand. You dont have a child of your own, but youll understand someday. I was afraid, and well Jenny? Just know that whatever I do comes from love. Please, if you always believe that than you will never doubt me again."
There was really nothing left to say. Except one thing. I smiled as I picked up my tea. "Happy Mothers Day, Mom."
Copyright © 1999 Jenine