Last summer, at my god-mother’s funeral, a cousin asked me if I missed my mother. Without skipping a beat I said of course, but I also added that I feel her inside of me, and in that place I hold her even closer. I hear her laugh coming from my throat, her gestures moving my hand, and her confidence as I stride into any situation. I encounter reminders of my mother in the shade of nail polish I pick out at the salon, reminders as I dive into the salty surf, reminders as I sit with her sister or brother, and certainly whenever talk drifts to the precious old days. She’s gone but she’s everywhere all at once.
What is it about familial that ties us to each other? What is it about their story that connects so easily to our own? My extended family is huge, and we all float about in our own spaces and places, but once we converge around a table, those ties linking us bind like golden threads. The conversations may be all about your antics as a toddler or your own grown children’s accomplishments, it matters not, for the cradle of hope is tangible and tactile and pure comfort. You even, unplanned, arrive at the luncheon date in similar hues. You match the ocean and sky. You feel all those who are gone but are present all the same.
The world is a sweet place made only sweeter by gardenias and orchids and a woman with only one good eye who walks with a cane yet who is more than willing to pose with me. This Aunt still giggles over ordering a “decadent” cup of coffee ice cream for dessert, and you order the same to share the sin. For this means more time to talk about lost days when we all were together on a different beach, a rocky one, where summer brought us all, year after year for so many we took the decades for granted.
Uncles too prove their worth. Is it always due to the twinkle of their eye, their ability to listen, or the ease in which they touch upon emotion? I knew when he looked at me that he saw her. He probably saw himself through decades as we rode the elevator. Card games in the rain, standing by a grill making small talk, gathering around long tables with three generations; yes certainly he saw her and a younger me, and all the promise those years held. While we chatted in his new home, with his new wife, over a glass, I felt her too. Rising in my fingers and spreading my smile wider than my own. She loved the party. The spotlight. The communion between us all.
There is no future time that will erase the past. We may carry ours differently, but we carry it along. I attempt to keep eyes forward, to enjoy the process, to live in the now, but there is a delight in these familiar faces I can not deny. They hold the whole of me. And even further back they hold the whole of her. And as we sit and sip, she dances before us all, and reminds us to say yes. Yes to more living. More life.
I return home after my visit south with a few more pearls to add to her strand. Reminders to stop racing and just float in the lingering daylight before it slips out of reach. Take that light inside. Breathe deeply. That’s the daily gift.