Penblwydd Hapus i chwi, Mam!

Oh, it’s out of season, sure – but she was so full of happiness. That was her wedding hope chest, full of the linens and dreams of her youth. I can remember still when she had to sell it along with so many of her things, when I was still quite young. I did so covet those wee salt and peppers -the blue of the cobalt glass shining from the silver filigree.

She had to give up so much in her lifetime. So many dreams.

It’s her birthday and I’ve thought about her a lot today. I wonder if she thinks of me, if it is possible for her to…I miss her so much.

She’d love the roses and the sweet peas in bloom. I hope she has flowers all the time, now. And that there is no season but that of youth and hope and promise.

Happy Birthday, Mommer…

2 responses to “Penblwydd Hapus i chwi, Mam!

  1. Happy Birthday indeed Mom. So many memories. There in the touch of wood under your hand. In a familiar smell.

    When I bought this old place, and started cleaning up around it, I saw several things in the garden that made me pause ,as my Mom and Dad always had a garden,

    What is it about certain things in life, the simplest of things, a flower, a smell, the feel of a piece of wood or tool in your hand that evokes a place, a voice, that makes you feel like a small child walking on a path of life that got suddenly big. And like a child, you deeply sense how it makes you feel, but the words you know to explain it are so very limited, so you just sit, and look, and breathe it in.

    So as I sat in my homes garden as memories came unbidden, color, movement shape. My Mom bending over her garden, helping my Dad weed, a young woman over whom death has already cast its shadow as surely as the apple tree shading her that day, she was gone from us before I was 12. Standing here in my flowerbed here in my new home, I could smell her perfume on the air, and the remembrance of the fluid movements of her hands in the soil is as real to me as a tide. Steady, gentle, certain.

    I could still feel the soil under my fingers as I helped her in the garden, dark and rich , shaded by the apple tree that survived many a winter storm off the mountains, from which branches my brothers and I often hung upside down like little monkeys. As we cleared out a patch of land behind the house, we found a patch of wild rhubarb, with strong and spiny looking leaves and thick tart stalks. I go to tear it up, thinking as many did, that it was just a huge weed, and my Mom stopped me.

    She said that would make a wonderful treat later, my Dad’s favorite, rhubarb pie. Perhaps we had a few cherries to thrown with the fruit, and she promised to sprinkle some sugar on the crust, right as it came out of the oven, to crystallize and crackle under our tongues and offset the sheer tartness of the fruit.

    Rhubarb, a taste of childhood that has a magic all its own, that doesn’t need words to carry it forward out of that garden of memory. The sweet taste of life in my Mom’s beloved garden.

    So on that day of memory, I dug into my freezer and found it, purchased from an country farm stand, rhubarb. Hands scrubbed clean of the soil, windows open to the future, I made myself a rhubarb pie, sprinkled with sugar, and the taste was what the memory made me feel. Safe and full of love, evoked in the sight of a overgrown garden, more than 1200 miles and many years from a Saturday afternoon.

    My Mom’s been gone for much too long, as your Mom has as well, yet the simplest act, even the memory of it brings peace. Beautiful and strong like the wild rhubarb itself, working its magic beneath the cold, dark soil.

  2. I can hardly find words to respond to your own kind missive.

    Such small things can bring it all back…I hadn’t thought of those things in years but that photo brought it all back.

    Her wedding dress was in there – with a waist so tiny that my young hands could almost span it.

    She was hard. She was loving. She was trying. She was amazing. She was, as all mothers are, unfathomable.

    Thank you for taking the time to compose such a lovely piece. I’m going to go wash my face, now…seems a bit salty…

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