In mid-July my six year old son AB and I packed our car full and headed south to California. We spent three weeks at my mom's. It is the home where I grew up, on six acres of beautiful land. It is made of the stuff of little boys dreams, and big girls respite. We walked Mom's dog Butler nearly every day and watched the birds bathe and wild turkeys cross the pasture.
AB loved to open the gate to Mom's garden and wander in to pick green beans, or hunt for lizards and grasshoppers. He swatted at the bees enjoying the zinnias and learned to step carefully so as not to disrupt the new plants just beginning to pop. He knew to secure the gate with the bungee cords so no deer made themselves at home in the middle of the night. He dug in the dirt, the gravel, found nature treasures and went to bed many nights with the scent of dirt still in his hair.
I loved to sip my morning coffee while the sun peeked up over the hill, and the birds gathered food. My morning runs along the country road brought peace and clarity, and beauty that I don't get to see as much as I would like. I loved being present in my Mom's days; meeting her friends at her water aerobics class, hearing her proudly introduce me as her baby from Portland.
Almost every evening was spent eating dinner around the kitchen table, the same table where I sat growing up. Instead of Dad at the head, AB proudly took his spot. Our meals were fresh and light, and usually made by mom. I pitched in a bit, but not often. Not often enough. I love to watch her cook. She has always been fabulous, and we rarely ate out when I was young. Most of what we ate was from her garden. I can remember as a child telling her I was hungry, then go outside and pick something to eat, she'd say. My favorite was a bell pepper sandwich - bell pepper still warm from the sun, light mayo on white bread and a bit of salt. The warm, soft, crunchy, combination is still so clear in my mind.
I love to watch my mom chop, toss, barbecue. She's become quite the grill master in the past few years. She makes it all look easy, the way she brings it together. The meals were simple, but delicious, flavorful and fresh. I enjoyed being on the receiving end once again. In her kitchen, her way, her one last bit of basil sprinkled on top.
The second week into our stay AB and I rode the train to Sacramento for a baseball game with friends. It was his first train ride and he sat and watched the world go by. On the return trip home we pulled out our coloring books and spent time coloring, he in his, me in mine. We shared a bit, and commented on each others work. At one point AB reached out and touched my hand and said, your skin is turning crinkly like Grandmas.
He is right. My hands are turning crinkly. They have been for some time. Shortly after my 30th birthday some years ago, I can remember being on a train, writing in my journal on my morning commute to work. I traced my hand, drew in all the wrinkles I saw. I wrote about not feeling 30, but seeing age in my hands.
As I have sat with AB's observation of my hands, I keep coming back to this - I should be so lucky. Crinkles hold stories. I hope my hands are not only crinkly like my Moms but also have the same ability to love, nurture, feed, comfort, and do half as much good as her hands have done. Her hands are those of a hospice nurse who held families in final goodbyes; hands that sewed dresses, Halloween costumes, and lost buttons. Her hands draw and sketch and write lovely birthday, anniversary and just because cards. Her hands grow, tend and cook food that filled the bellies of her family for years. Her hands hold and comfort, rub tired feet at night and backs when achey. Hands that provided loving care for my Dad until he passed peacefully in his sleep, with her by his side, with her hands stroking his forehead I am sure.
On our last night in California I had gone to town to enjoy a farewell beer with dear friends. I headed home after dark and called to let Mom and AB know I was on my way. Thunder and lightening were in the distance, she reminded me to drive carefully. I pulled into the dark driveway and my headlights caught my mom and AB sitting on the tailgate of my Dads truck. As I turned off the headlights, lightening filled the sky and the sight of them sitting together, eyes wide, mouths open is astonishment, I caught my own breath. My son and my mom, creating memories, delighting in each other and the wonder of nature. It was a moment where my Mama heart and daughter heart collided, and I was filled peace. Stories were being written.
In five days I send AB off to Kindergarten. I am not the first or the last mom to do so, but he is my first, and my last. You can imagine where my heart is. In addition to the sun-kissed highlights in his hair, the farmer tan on his arms, I know he is full of summer memories. My hope is that as he goes out on this new adventure, without me beside him, that he remembers my hands - hands that love, guide, soothe, comfort and tend. Hands that hold stories, that say I love you and I believe in you and I am here for you. Always. Mom hands. Crinkles and all