The anniversary of my mom’s death is in early April, so I’ve been thinking of her even more than normal. I might have been two or three; this might be my earliest memory of her, of us:
I am nestled into the left corner of my mother’s lap. Her arm supports me and holds open a big book of fairy tales. Her right arm curves around and flips the pages. Occasionally, the bottom of her chin taps gently on the top of my head. Right where the fontanel once pulsed. Her chest breathes me in and out. In and out. We are in a circle, a breathing circle.
Is she reading the “The Goose Girl?” Even though the horse’s head is cut off and bloody, even though it is mounted hideously on a wall? Outside our breathing circle, the cabin thrums. In the center of the two-room log cabin that my mom and her five siblings grew up in is a large barrel stove. It emanates heat and the gloves and boots spread around it breathe wool, old leather, pine pitch, and hard work. The walls had been papered that spring with salvaged cardboard boxes, a flimsy insulation against a Montana winter. Above her head near the corner is a small window, laced with ice that clings to the edges of the pane. The red heat of the stove has little effect in the corners of the small log cabin.
Mom is seated in the deep well of an old armchair, upholstered in a thick maroon velvet. Years later I would wonder how that Victorian-inspired chair found its way to this small shack on my Reservation. But there we are. Mom might be twenty-four years old, with the second of three children in her arms, breathing, magic, possibilities, and hidden strength—in and out. In and out.
Because I am now retired, I have the time to do what I want. And I find that what I love doing more than anything is reading. (Somehow, I am newly surprised by this.) I average about 5 books a month: nonfiction, murder mysteries, science fiction, best sellers, memoirs, books about writing, poetry, an occasional self-help book. I read real books that I’ve bought, books from the library, and books on Kindle. I also listen to audible books when I clean house. (But not when I am outside; when I’m in the outdoors, I listen to the outdoors.) I have more balance in my life when I have a story going on in my head.
Mom is one of my great loves, and she gave me another of my great loves. Lucky me.