“can i come talk?”
the house was blanketed in little else but moonlight. the clock ticked from down the stairs and around a bend or two. the red digits that burn beside my bed–there only simply because they get the job done, there in the middle of the night when you roll and see them flashing the wee, wee hours–they broadcast, 11:01.
i was dozing when the footsteps padded up the walk. so all i heard was the click of the door. and the breathing that followed, the footsteps up the stairs.
i knew right away whose steps those were. you memorize those things.
and then i heard, through the gauzy mostly-darkness: “mom? can i come talk?”
and so, a summer’s night turned sweeter than a cantaloupe cut open, spilling, melon juices running off the cutting board, melon in july the sweet you wait for, perfect sugar stewed in sun and farmer’s field.
“mind if i lie down?’ the long-bodied boy asked, politely, though he didn’t wait for any grunt of answer, throwing his lanky self upon the sheets in darkness.
how long had it been since we’d lay side-by-side, this boy who as a babe slept every night curled beside me so i never missed his gruntings or his midnight peeps when once again he needed mama’s milk?
once he’d thrown his skinny jeans upon the sheets, his curls upon the pillow, i heard the deep, deep sigh.
i assure you i’d roused myself from sleep. i was wholly at attention. it’s what happens when your end-of-high-school child throws himself upon your bed: you listen hard. you savor every word.
what flowed beyond the sigh were sentences and paragraphs, whole stories of moonlit walks and beaches, of how he saw the world, and more importantly, the human heart.
as he talked, considered contours of the human race, the soul, what’s right, what’s not, i lay there soaking in the whole of it. every blessed drop of the notion that i’d a 17-year-old almost-man who understood through and through that wherever i am in the world, there’s a heart that wholly listens.
oh, there are many things that i am not. i grind myself daily that i’m not at the park, throwing, catching balls with the little one who would swell at such attentions. i do not make weekly trips to the library, as i wish i did, trudging home with loads of books and the little boy in tow, the one i cannot get, without squalls of protest, to lift a book. i wander past a treehouse, just built down the block, and think, now why didn’t i surrender a corner of the yard to old-fashioned summer construction, the sort engineered and executed by a child equipped with load of wood and pure imagination?
oh, i scold myself plenty. sadly heard too often as a child, shame on you. and shame i did absorb.
but there is one small arena of the heart, of motherhood, that i can proudly claim, learned the hard way, learned through all the bumps and bruises of the heart to which i’ve paid keen attention: i seem to know how to listen, how to take my children by the hand, traverse the landscape of the heart, the bumps, the planes, the high places.
it all came rushing in to me the other night, there in the murky moonlight darkness. i heard the boy i love tell stories, and in the ones he told, i heard that he too has learned to forge head on through the shadows of the heart, to seek the clearings, to know they’re just around the bend. to breathe blind faith into thickets all around.
at long last we heard footsteps on the bluestone walk. heard the click of the door, and more steps up the stairs. it was the father of the man-boy, home at last from work.
and there he found us, mother and son, lit only by the shafts of moonlight, telling stories, listening, as one day became another.
“can i come talk?” the child asks.
and the answer, always, always, says the mother: i am so deeply blessed that you lay your heart on mine.
holy God, bless the children and their stories and the mothers born to listen…..
whose heart did you turn to when you were growing up? whose heart do you turn to now? who turns to yours?
first question, no good answer. whose heart now? i don’t know for shame or for clarity but it usually is my own, i like what it says…such a mother, even to me.
and to my own heart, well you know- it is an open door and many come knocking like- friends of the kids who are now almost grown up and i am not mom but mama t, and that is an honor, may i say. and a niece comes who is wedding and whose mama isn’t ever never fully grown there in her heart so i speak for her, least i think she would be more if she could, but she doesn’t or won’t…but her own mother, aunt lou- was (now i remember, i can answer the first question- yes, it was her always my heart ached for and her soothing.) the greatest mom of all and she’s not here, so for her, i stand about a foot to low, but hope someday to be as tall and plain and good as her.
love your savoring moments of the day that will come too soon for you, when the tall legged one graduates to that higher learning place…hang in there, listen and look and keep it all right there for gathering when you need it, you will, you’ll see, you will be able to draw often from it…and it will add up in interest that will keep all the tears from flowing at once, just a few…and that is always alright.
i aim to come here more often, to the table…the wise woman head always, always. speaks straight to my growing parts, rich fertilizer this.
Friday, July 30, 2010 – 09:19 AM
oh dearest truest wonder…and that is what i love, your muse on the hearts to whom you’ve turned, you’ve reached, your musing on who seeks yours, how we are mama to the ones to whom we might not be moms. it is a jumble of love and listening, all these hearts who listen.
my prayer would be that every someone finds a mama somewhere. though, sadly, i know it doesn’t work that way….
last night, standing on the el platform (that’s chicago talk for where the elevated train rumbles in, pulls to a lurching stop, then starts again, carries you away…), i was deep in the pages of a book (dominique browning’s “paths of desire”–about a garden, people) when i smelled something heavenly, looked up, said to the man with the bouquet who’d appeared beside me: that smells heavenly. he smiled, began pointing to his litany of flowers, started with the lily, to which i piped up, “stargazer,” and this man, this lovely man, he said, “i love you,” and handed me a violet-colored rose, insisted i take it home, that it was mine. i asked, “who those for?” pointing to his big bouquet. he said: “my mama. she’s been taking care of me lately.” he then told me how he’d been sick, had collapsed on the floor one night, and his jamaican mama had spooned soup into his mouth, right there as he lay on the floor. and that’s when tears came in my eyes. the power of a mama’s love. it never stops. the man was more than 50-something. learned over the course of the train ride that his name was paul, and he makes a fine curried goat, and he is waiting for a kidney transplant. till then, he is staying with his mama. and bringing her stargazer lilies on the train…..
i tell that story, because it’s another one about mama love and how it never dies. and how it comes in spoonfuls sometimes, and stories that unspool in moonlight and are listened to. closely.
dear true, i love it when you pull up a chair. when you tell stories, i listen. can i come talk? must be words you hear time and time again. you who gathers hearts the way you not long ago gathered bush beans on your farm……
Friday, July 30, 2010 – 10:24 AM
the story told itself through you or it could not have come this or that way at all. you’re a catcher, made to catch those breathtaking stories….if you wonder ever, “why”…
i think that might be the telling in the stories you tell. if you wonder how those are received, well- that story says “Stargazer, I love you.”, it begs to be swam in, not read….one must swim in the deep depths here, where the water has a buoyancy that not only keeps us afloat, it turns to air so that we may fly. and with that, as in any despairingly-needed good writing, gracious story telling; we are called to remember, use the richness there and adjust accordingly- our own lives always for the better.
i cannot ever thank you enough for all that you have brought and bring.
peace to you today-
Friday, July 30, 2010 – 12:01 PM
bless your magnificence, my truest wonder……
Friday, July 30, 2010 – 03:18 PM