Her long blonde hair trailed past her shoulders as hips swayed, adorned in 70s stripes, across the street each day to meet me after my Kindergarten class was over. Our tiny house just yards away, she walked to retrieve her copper-headed daughter each day in the golden sun. My heart searches for memories of what we ever might have talked about those few steps back to the cozy home she kept neat and sweet for us, but alas, none are recalled, except for the heart leap I felt each time I saw her as she made her way to get me.
Teaching me how to cross the street, the next year, she would stop at the sidewalk across the street, and I was to meet her as she watched me carefully check for traffic and then make my way to her. So big. So proud, and she knew she was showing me how to navigate the world just then, and already without her. I could do it, and she knew that. Showing me I could do it was the point.
One day, school let out, and I walked to my spot on the sidewalk to meet my mother. But I didn’t see her. She wasn’t there. I waited. She didn’t come. And I began to cry. I knew that I knew how to cross the street, but something in me was scared. For what, I can’t remember. The fact that the rhythm was disturbed? Had she forgotten me? Was I scared of going home to an empty house?
And as I stood there, hot steaming tears covering cheeks, I saw the blond hair coming toward me. “Brandy, why didn’t you just look both ways and come on home, honey? You know the way. Remember, I showed you what to do? You know the way!” And I sobbed, “I know, Mama, but I didn’t know where you were…”
I didn’t know where she was. I’d felt lost. Alone. Scared.
She consoled me and advised me that if she ever overslept from her afternoon nap again, that I was to look both ways carefully and go ahead and cross that street and just come on home. Navigating the world without her. Life skills. Okay, Mama.
Years passed and I didn’t need her to help me cross the street any more, but the half sandwich she’d wrapped up in a paper towel and handed to me as she picked me up from high school to take me straight to work each day signaled her enduring love and care for the nearly grown daughter of hers. She knew it was good for me to work, to figure out how to pay for things I wanted, to earn money by sweating, and I was navigating the world, making my way more independently from her.
Married and with children of my own, years later, I understood her better. I understood her smile at me with closed eyes and how that expressed more love than words ever could. I understood her worry, fear, her frustration in motherhood and even marriage.
She’s gone now. I’ve been thinking about her for days, I suppose since it was just Mother’s Day. I seem to go in spurts, being okay without her, being a horribly mangled mess without her… So many things I want to say now. So many things I want to thank her for, tell her I understand. Like how she was right about it not being important if someone puts your dishes away in the wrong spots, but to be grateful they helped you. And how I understand her addiction now more than I ever have. Not that I’m an addict, thank the Lord, but I understand. It was a matter of endurance for her, and I get that now. It was her way to just keep going, ironically enough.
I love you, Mama. I’m going to meet you again someday. I’ll cross over to where you are and be reunited with you and Jesus will make it all shine forever into Eternity. Until then, my heart longs for you. It waits for you. For your embrace. Navigating without you was a skill taught early, too early, and although I’m fully capable, I’d still rather you walk with me.
Forever your girl,