Friday, February 22, 2013

What Mama Did

They skip down the staircase with their weekend things hugged tight. Totoro and Hobbes' hand stitched faces bobbing see you soon! from behind. This time the little three stay back with me. They smear their own good-byes on glass — tap and wave, tap and wave — unwilling to let Grandma's car leave that driveway without their knowing it.

Mom makes it a point to invite these five children of mine across town to stay with her at almost regular intervals; each visit shaped uniquely by the personality of the child visiting. It could mean breakfast out, a surprise box of Legos, a re-run of Cops or cartoons on the couch, or volunteering with her at the animal shelter. Mostly, she just wants them to know that she enjoys having them around.  

The girls tug side doors closed and I know from experience that her car smells of spearmint gum; it has since the days when my legs dangled and swung over seat edges. Back then it was an ever present green pack of Wrigley's with the sticks all wrapped in shimmer— the brand has changed by now, but the scent is still etched there.

My parents divorced when I was three and after that, with rare exception, I lived with my father growing up. With so little of the daily to define us, I learned to mark our together-life by the comings and goings of time spent riding in her car.

That is why I can tell you about her gum. I can tell you that she prefers Little Trees car-fresheners and that she's always had a thing for Chevy Camaros.

It was from the back of a Camaro, in fact, that I embarrassed her in that way that only a young child knows how: Heading from my home in Central Oregon to a visit with her on the coast, I gleefully pestered the police officer who caught her speeding until just the right amount of guess what? wore thin his resolve to ignore me, and I could proudly reveal to him that my mommy was a police officer too!

His response, more for her, but looking directly at me, was that she should know better, then.

In early grade school I spent my school days assimilating I before E except after C, but it was during the holidays, away from school, that I learned how to read the dips and the climbs and the line in the earth that abruptly exchanged High Desert sagebrush for high mountain fir trees.

The summer after my 9th birthday, it was the trip we took from Oregon to Disneyland; my sister and I under canopy, behind bicycles, and on top our nest of mattress and pillows and blankets, passing the long hours by giggling and talking and tickling our way to the Magic Kingdom.*

Even in middle school when my mom, between transitions, shared a bunk bed with me at my father's house, it was the early morning sunbeams, tapping shoulders through moon roof, and the Top Gun soundtrack, both proclaiming and strident, that made me most feel like I was with her as we shuttled across town to my classes. 

We were at home together in the coming and the going.

In my teen years I learned to deflect rapid-fire I love you's, not yet understanding what most moms eventually all understand: That it's when time seems the shortest and deadlines loom, that we begin to question ourselves the most.

Us moms, loving the best that we know how, we can't help but wonder if it's ever enough.

The physical distance between us, now closer than ever, and she calls to let me know that she'll have my babies back home to me by noon. But first, she has a trip coming up and... will I go with her?  And you know that I'm going to say yes because my mom and I, we have climbed hills together, and there is nothing more important to me than her knowing that I've enjoyed having her around.

 This post is linked up with Lisa-Jo for Five Minute Friday. To be fair, I have been carrying this around in my thoughts for about a month now and Lisa-Jo's prompt sort of just set it free. Also, the * indicates where the five minute mark occurred but I had difficulty leaving it there, so it took a bit longer, but I wanted to go ahead and finish it up because I had a feeling my Mama would ask.

This post was also linked up to Emily Wierenga's Imperfect Prose.

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