Listener Essay - Yearning
Debbie Slack enjoys hiking in CT, especially at Trail Wood, the home of Edwin and Nellie Teale, with her husband Bob and their two Labs. Besides exploring, Debbie loves when her four children and their families can spend time together. Presently Deb is on a mission searching for “the” literary agent to represent her novel, Henry Cooper and the Gutsy Girls. Deb believes there is value in everyone’s words and is leading the Writers’ Clinic in her home town of Tolland, CT.
My Mom used to yearn for spring.
My Mom was born in England and traveled across “the pond” to move to the United States when she was a little girl. Family traditions and understandings came along with her and remained a part of her. She only wore orange on St. Patty’s Day, knew a cup of tea could help resolve any issue including being in labor, and easily accepted the rainy season. And let us not forget her British accent which seemed to blossom while speaking with her sister on the phone or after partaking in several glasses of wine.
We were a family of six living in a white colonial on top of the hill in a farm town on Long Island. My Mother was a loving mom, truly. She adored us four kids, treasured us. And she was over the moon over my Dad. But late in winter, when the temperature was held captive in a chilling grip, when falling snow continued to obscure her view and the cold chilled her bones, Mom couldn’t wait for the release. Hidden from all, deep within her heart, Mom’s dreams were as housebound as she was. Over the years on those final cold days of winter while we were at elementary school, when Mom’s sense of adventure and her dreams of opening her own real estate company were as bleak as the graying sky overhead, Mom opened the window. To be clear, my Mom did more than open a window. She secretly pried the frozen window upstairs open, leaned out, and shouted, “There has to be something more! Right?” The brisk wind whipped her hair across her face, caught her words and carried them far away along with her hopes and dreams. By the time we returned home from school, Mom was herself again serving tea and passing around a plate of store bought cookies. (Mom did not inherit my Nana’s baking skills.) So when the daffodils pushed up through the snow and unfurled their bright yellow flowers, Mom cheered and called them her “trumpets of spring.” Once the spring equinox declared her independence from the confines of winter, Mom joined in. The light, the warmth, the pinks and purples of the tulips soothed Mother’s soul. Mom sang about Easter bonnets as she stripped the winter curtains and washed the panes. Spring cleaning was a family affair with buckets, brooms, and dust cloths. Outdoors there was raking, seeding, pruning and mulching. The jobs were interspersed with water balloon fights and rounds of hide and seek. As the sun set we made s’mores, told stories and laughed every time our dog stole a sticky marshmallow. I cherish those memories.
I have carried on many of Mom’s philosophies including treasuring my family, the comfort found in a shared pot of tea and the sense of renewal in preparing the garden for spring. I have been known by a secret few to have pried open a window in the dead of winter and shout out to the Universe, “What about me? I thirst for more.” My words and my dreams seem to be carried away on the same wind that so many years ago circled around the earth and grabbed my Mother’s.
In the past I also have needed spring. I have welcomed the lengthening hours of daylight and the way the afternoon sun warms my back and eases the tension in my neck. Shedding my coat and my boots along with the weight and worries of the brutal cold lightens my step. Spring has always had a way of doing that, of easing living, including the way she softens the earth allowing the tender green shoots to push forward and find the light. As the tiny shoots push upward, so do I. Spring, in all of her blossoming finery, typically encourages me to stretch, to wonder.
However, recently I have not been yearning for spring or her enthusiasm. I am in mourning. I have lost my Mother. I am holding back, holding on to the chilling cold that encourages me to hide, to find comfort in my quilts, to cocoon myself away from the approaching light. My heart is heavy. The bird’s song lifts my spirits but quickly fades when it departs. The graying clouds and stiff winds of this late March keep the warmth away. I am keeping one foot planted in winter. It is as if I don’t know how to move forward with the passing of my beautiful Mom. As if this holding onto my grief, of being rooted in sorrow, keeps me closer to her.
Flashbacks of moments with my Mother appear uninvited but are welcomed. Those times when I stumbled or was brokenhearted and Mom handed me a cup of tea and said, “This too will pass. Don’t forget you are strong.” I remember that particular night when I awoke and found Mom wearing a raincoat over her nightgown as she tiptoed out to the car. Of course I jumped in and we laughed as we drove away. I had no idea where we were going until she parked the car and pointed to the office building across the street. Due to her hard work and dedication, her secretly held dreams had become Mom’s reality. The proof was in the new, brightly lit sign that read BUNNY KING REALITY. Mom’s face wet with tears was alight with joy.
I glance out the window at the bright blue sky. The way the morning sun climbs through the bare treetops calls to me. I think of Mom, her fierce determination and I know it’s time to leave winter’s darkness and step out into the glorious light. I need to reclaim it, to dance in it, to allow its renewing energy to surge through me. I need to go for a walk in the woods and coat the earth with wildflower seeds. I need to laugh at the rippling stream and let the girl within run free. And most of all I need to do more than believe in my dreams. . . I need to work hard and make them come true.