In the muggy part of July, on the dirty river I grew up next to, I’d sit with friends on our front step as the sun set, willing a breeze to appear, a break in the heat, a storm to snap the air back to it’s senses.
We’d talk, as deeply or as plainly as any 9 or 10 year old is capable of. My mother was sick, but not dead at this point, treatment still rendering her bedridden at times, but other’s she was up and about and doing all those wife and mother things she did so well.
She’s bring us lemonade, crisp and tart on our tongues. We’d forget the heat for a few moments as our faces acclimated to this breath of reaction, the coolness of the glass, the brightness of the taste. If we were lucky, she’d bring us cookies on a plate to slowly share after she turned off the porch light as we stared up for stars.
I watched Halley’s comet up there as a child, and looked constantly for it’s sisters.
My friends would eventually find their ways home, before the faint voices of their mother’s would cascade down the streets, a block or two away. You never needed a phone when your friends were just around the corner, or through some one’s backyard. I’d sit quiet, listening to the hum of a quiet town, the odd car downtown, whispering laughter from TV’s across the street, dogs barking, their temper with the weather loud.
My mother would sit with me then, always in pants, a short sleeved shirt, comfortable shoes. Her face was puffy with her medication, but her smile was still her. And we’d sit, still and quiet, shoulders touching, until mosquitoes became too much for us.
In the quiet, we spoke the words we never could say out loud. There she told me she loved me, and was proud of me. There I told her I was terrified to lose her, to the point of denial, and spooked that I would forever be a disappointment to her. A small voice told her I loved her as well.
Comfort would have no comparison since those days.
There is something so unmeasurable about the presence of a mother, just the sheer hedonistic pleasure of being next to the flesh that knows yours, the woman who held you nights to her breast and calmed your crying. Something strong and unmovable. You never really know your mother, but you don’t need to. She is permanent, yielding and kind. She is a beacon for the rest of your life.
Like the lemonade we drank on those hot nights, a mother, my mother, any mother, is a cool breeze through a life-an awakening, and yet also the cocoon. Inside, I was my mother’s daughter and safe, warmed and growing.
I think of my mother often during the summer, those few nights that nearly slip through my fingers, glimpses of her in my memory which grow sparse with time. I think of strength those moments gave-the steady, unwavering devotion that she passed on. The ability of silence.
Such gifts she left me.