Saturday, May 7, 2011


May 7, 2011

Dear Andrea,

I quit TV.

I grew tired of everyone telling me how I should think, act, dress, eat, live my life.

Without TV, it is quiet here.  Today, I sit at my antique oak pedestal table, looking out at the fenced in piece of earth I bought a year ago, the green grass, the carefully tended garden full of roses, lilacs and hydrangeas mixed with rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano – I listen for you, my ears tuned in to every sound. The washing machine with its steady clicka clocka clicka clocka one, two, one, two. The curtains rustle in the breeze made by the heat vents. The furnace hums a single note to the clicka clocka clicka clocka one two one two of the washing machine.

I hear the sound of breath--inhale exhale--of throat swallowing, of heart pumping miles and miles of blood through arteries, veins, capillaries.  Blood that carries the luggage of generations of women before, all tagged, marked so as to be recognized – Thelma, Francesca, Diane and the great-grandmothers and their mothers before them. I am the daughter of these mothers and you are the daughter of me.

Mother's Day. Yesterday I prepared a place in my yard for a kitchen garden. I measured out the space I wanted. I hired Noah to cut the sod and move it to the neighbor's backyard. I dug and leveled a 4 inch trench and stacked cinderblocks to wall in the spot where carrots, beets, cucumbers, zucchini squash will find their home in dark rich compost.  As I look out this morning, the brown and black bare soil is an empty canvas illuminated by the sun. 

I planted garlic chives Sun Gold, Black, and Dr. Carlson cherry tomatoes in the large grey ceramic planters I bought at Costco for this home last spring. I made cloches out of empty plastic gallon milk containers to protect the new plants in case of frost. 

Two years ago you called me.  “Mom, my friend Nolana wants to plant a vegetable garden.  I told her you know how.  Will you come help her?  I’ll help too.” 

“I wish I could.”  I told you.  But I thought I was too busy then.  With what? I can’t remember.  But this morning, I would be remembering planning, planting a garden with you and Nolana if I had made time for that.   

Sadie is sleeping at my feet. The washing machine shifts from the clicka clacka, clicka clacka that soothed me, to some frenzied tap dancing on the outside metal tub. It happens in increments, my body reacting to the sound.  My brain is scrambled until I hear the sound of running water. Closing my eyes, it almost sounds like a river.  It is just the rinse cycle. I feel tense nerves relaxing.

The laundry room is behind me. It is in a closet closed off by folding doors creating a short hallway between the kitchen and garage. Earlier this morning, I sorted blacks with blacks, blues with blues, browns with browns, whites with whites. They all made neat piles on my kitchen floor. While I was sorting, I kept getting my big toe caught in a pair of white lacy underwear.  Walking away from the washer, I saw a path of dribbles on the floor where Sadie dripped water from her beard after drinking from her bowl.  With my toes picking up the first soft thing I found, I moved it and dropped it on the soft spot. With the ball of my foot I pushed it around and dried the floor. When I finished, I picked up what I’d been using. It was a pair of panties. I choked up a giggle, then a laugh.

Now I hear it, you are laughing too.  There are tears in your eyes. “Oh. My. God. Mom. That's something I totally would do to.”  In my mind you are back in your apartment in Virginia Beach where your laundry room was a closet with folding doors in a hallway.

Then it stops. The washer, the furnace, the laughter. I cannot swallow.  A rope of panic has wrapped itself around my throat and tightens. I stop writing. The pen sits on this paper bleeding ink. No words take shape.

I have to move, to get a cup of coffee. To move the load of finished laundry to the dryer. I know this. But I sit here in this moment on this morning at this table watching the sun spotlight the beauty of all those things that are reborn in spring. Illuminated bare dirt, fertile ground inviting seeds yet to be planted.

I hear myself screaming inside, I scare myself. I miss you.

I lay my pen down. I have to plant a garden. I'm going to leave the house sounds to hear birds singing and smell this mother’s morning in May. I'm going to pick up a handful of dirt with my bare hands and sift it between my fingers watching it fall back to the ground. I will pick a leaf of sage, oregano, thyme and put them in my mouth. It will taste like Thanksgiving. I will look back into my house and see the table, the computer, the open Journal, the pen, the empty chair.

Later when the sun is setting I will sit in my chair again, a warm cup of Starfire Licorice tea in front of me, look back on my garden and wait for things to grow.