Comfort

In sixth grade, I strode into your bedroom to find you situated on your bed with your Stephen King book in hand. Eyes almost closed, but not quite.

Settled.

Still.

Scruffy flannel pajamas snuggled your body. Antique quilts swaddled the bed. Your glasses had slipped to the bottom of your nose, like always, and you hadn’t yet shoved them back up.

Snug.

Safe.

Soft white light whispered to the shadows in your corner of the room. I didn’t say anything. Didn’t have to. But I needed to be close to you. At your side. A daughter needs her mother.

So I slid into your bed. Opened my R.L. Stine book. Exhaled.

It would have been different had we known what was to come; cancer.

Chaos.

Chemotherapy.

At that moment, we would’ve had conversations about life. About close family I never had the chance to meet. About what you were like as a child.

You’d show your candor, your true colors. But that knowledge, that experience, would’ve come at a cost.

No quiet.

No calm.

No comfort.

But we didn’t know. Not yet. Instead, only our steady sighs and the shooshing of turning pages swept against our ears. Everything else turned silent because it was our space, our time.

Serene.

Sound.

Had we known, we would have gained something. But we would have lost so much, only to watch the clock.

Photo by Umberto Del Piano on Unsplash

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Journey to a Magical Place

I watched my daughter, young and slender with a head full of short blond waves, staring out the kitchen window at the falling rain.  I could see the boredom in her blue-green eyes, reflected against the window pane and my heart ached.  La Nina left its dingy mark on my tiny town for nearly thirty days, making her toys begin to fade from bright colors to pastels.  Her happy dolls were now depressed.  Her Legos preferred to be in a puddle, rather than built into magnificent structures.

I walked over to my daughter and gently placed my hand on hers.  She looked up to me and smiled brightly.

“Hey, Momma.  Whatcha doin’?”

“Hey, Sweetie.  I was actually just thinking that we need a little adventure.  What do you think?”  Her smile spread even farther, reaching her ears.

“What kind of adventure?” She raised up onto the very top of her tippy-toes, getting as tall as she could manage.

“Well…” I said, thinking for a moment, “I think we should go on a surprise journey to a truly magical place.”  She clasped her hands in front of her freckled face and jumped in excitement.

“Let’s do it!”

We quickly loaded into the van, trying to stay dry by running between the drops.  Our seatbelts clicked as we harnessed ourselves in securely, ready to embark on our rainy-day excursion.

“So where are we going, Momma?”

“Well, let’s see,” I looked at her eager face in the rearview, “the place we are going can set you free from reality, like leaving this rainy day behind.  You can let your ideas can run wild, taking whatever shape your mind will allow.  You can visit far away cities, countries, or even planets.  Then, magically, it can bring you back to Earth when you’ve been traveling in the cosmic, dark blue space for far too long.  It can help you learn to dance, cook, and knit.  It can offer you new and magnificent ideas as well as ones you’ve heard time and again.”

“Tell me more!”

“Okay, sure.  The place we are going brings hope and love in times of depression.  It gives us power at our weakest hour and supports us when we think we’ve got no one on our side.  At this place, you can be a superhero, a doctor, a racecar driver or maybe even a rock star! It’s a splendid place of fairytale, a marvelous place of modernity and a noble place of history.”

As we pull into the cement slab parking lot and look up at the building made simply of red brick and grey mortar, I am reminded of many days spent at a place like this, as a kid.

“The library!”  Excitement spilled over each syllable as my daughter kicked her feet in delight.  “Yay!”

As a child, I loved going to the library with my mom.  It was an old building made of stone, reminiscent of a castle or old church with cathedral ceilings and oversized arched windows filled with stained glass.  Inside was quiet and smelled of forgotten paper, pinched together between bindings, and filled with the promise of joy.  It was my favorite place; I always chose to borrow books from series like Baby Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High, or anything R.L. Stine (to this day, I love a good thriller).

This library was much newer, round in shape and filled with maple wood trim, but still it had that same papery smell I remembered.  I could envision my mom picking and choosing her newest novel from the recent returns, right by the librarian.  She liked to find gems there.  I could hear the beep of the beige boxy computer as it checked out each book to a new renter, eager to learn something new, or dig into an old favorite.

I brought my eyes back to my kid, today, now rummaging through the hard-bound children’s section. Taking her time, she read titles and carefully decided on several that she liked.   She walked through the aisles of paperbound treasures filled with bedtime stories, yet to be read, and lightly touched a few familiar titles.  Slowly, she gathered even more books to borrow.

By the end, her chosen stack of Star Wars and princess themed books almost reached her eyes, which were gleaming with excitement.  My daughter walked up, plopped her stack of books onto the check-out counter, and offered me her biggest grin.  The trip to the library had turned her undeniable boredom into an opportunity for exploration.  I patted her gently on the head, hoping that one day she’d remember the papery smell, the beep at the check-out counter and the feeling of time spent with me on our journey to this magical place.

“Let’s go, Momma!” she said excitedly.  “I have some adventures to begin!”

Photo Courtesy of Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash