at the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden
If there is any other occasion besides Christmas that can fill one's heart with "divine homesickness," I'm guessing that it's Mother's Day. In the following short story, my friend Jan has captured the sensation so well that it brings the tears to my eyes:
You are eight years old and already lonely. You measure your walk home from school by sidewalk squares. Your feet have memorized the path. You are walking to the house on Washington Street where the steps to the porch are steep. Your mother greets you at the door, her face as familiar as wind.
Now, years later, you look at a photograph of her from that time; her brown eyes smile, her dark hair pulled back from her luminous face. You marvel at her beauty, showing the photograph to friends—anyone who will look: “See. See my mother. This is what she looked like then” — as if she is someone different, someone you don’t remember, someone you never saw before.
In the house on Washington Street, that same mother — the one in the photograph — does the dishes by hand. It is 1964. She gives you a towel. “Here. You dry.”
In her 80’s now, her hair gone gray, her shoulders stooped, her loneliness beats in rhythm with your own. You hear her voice over the miles, and you listen to her stories — endless stories of what ifs. You ask, “Do you remember the house on Washington Street?” And she answers, “Of course I do.”
If you go looking, you will find sidewalk squares to measure. You will find steep concrete steps leading to stoops and into houses. They are everywhere. But something about that house on Washington Street calls you, reminds you of something you just cannot name. You see it in her eyes when you look at the photo. You want someone to tell you the story of that house and her in it. You were there, yet you need someone to tell the story.
You stare a long time at the photo. Her beauty startles you.
American artist, novelist, playwright, poet, teacher
Bellagio Conservatory, Las Vegas
Previous Jan Donley Posts on my blogs:
Lost & Found
9 / 11 Retrospective [also on Quotidian Kit]
Dagmar's Birthday [also on Quotidian Kit]
Everyone Loves Stories
There on the Edge of Autumn [also on Quotidian Kit]
"I Seen the Little Lamp" [also on Quotidian Kit]
The House You're Standing In . . . [also on Quotidian Kit]
The Inner World of the Dream Character
Sleight of Hand
The Little Door
Happy Birthday Coyote!
Color Just Invented