“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the sun (Ecclesiastes 3:1).”
Winter entered defiantly, accompanied by an unwelcome letter, an unwelcome demand for something I could not produce, least of all in winter; affectionate warmth and vulnerability. Her name was Mother and she appeared at my door one early morning. I thought her, at first, to be a figment of my subconscious, but as I stood gazing back into eyes like mine–deep, brown, and brightly meditative–then made contact with hands like mine–gentle yet capable–I understood her to be real.
“Hi Mary…” She began.
As her cautious breath swept across my face I felt my world become suddenly engulfed by winter–the stripping away of my vibrant skins, and the beginning of a life-altering struggle to nurture that which, according to winter, needed to wither.
I closed the front door quietly behind me. “Hi.”
“How are you doing?”
“…I’m alright. How are you?”
“Pretty good…” She scrutinized my appearance before asking, “were you on your way to work?”
“No.” An involuntary, impatient sigh escaped my lips. “I’m just meeting someone.”
She smiled warmly. “Someone special?”
“Just a friend.” I diverted my gaze from her eyes to my wrist.
She went on glibly; alas my hint in looking at my watch had been too subtle.
“I tried calling you around Christmas. I thought you might want to—” She began.
“Yeah, sorry, I was pretty busy with work and some other things.” I glanced at my watch once more. “I really do have to go though.”
She placed a snow-white, blank-faced envelope into my hand. “Well, anyway, Merry Christmas…Happy New Year.”
“It’s a letter…I wrote you a letter….I wanted to explain some—”
“Thanks. That’s okay. You don’t have to do that.” I handed it back dismissively.
She held up one hand with quiet authority to prevent the letter from re-entering her personal space. “I don’t want it back… I understand that you might not read it…but I really hope you do…Have a great day Mary.”
With that, she vanished down the block into the bleak morning, whilst I stood awestruck and mildly furious on the landing of the dwelling’s front steps. I made my descent toward the sidewalk, finding by divine providence a disposal bin on the parameter of the property. As I started to release the unadorned envelop, I heard my name in a familiar voice. I heard the sound in the open air around me, yet it also had the resonance of emerging from deep within me. I lifted my face and looked about, clutching the unwanted letter close to my person with both hands. I saw no one. I awaited another sound, but there was none. Instead, in the silence I perceived an inexplicable compulsion to keep the letter. I folded it, and placed it onto my sweater pocket before continuing on my journey to the garden.
I walked briskly through the park to the garden planted at the heart of it and there found the wooden bench affixed at the center of the garden. I sat quietly, face fixed forward, gazing at nothing in particular, as my heart and mind unendingly chased the sights and sounds of the moment before the park. Again I saw her face before me and heard her imploring words. She expressed her efforts to reach out to me. She offered her letter. I looked back in to her eyes and thought I had in fact discerned sincerity. The child in me longed to believe, but the woman who sat in the park, estranged from childhood by time and pain could not believe. I made a final resolution to dispose of the letter.
A few feet away from the bench, I spotted a disposal bin conveniently placed. I arose and moved hurriedly towards it; reaching into my pocket as I walked. I lifted the letter away from my person, released it into the gaping mouth of the bin then turned to walk away. The intent was to resume my seat and my wait without the weight of her words in my pocket. While such evasion was permitted in the previous season, the present demanded change.
A forceful wind barreled down through the branches overhead, past me to the disposal bin where it scooped the letter out and carried it carefully along to rest on the bench.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” I muttered to myself; glaring at the letter which seemed to smile back triumphantly.
“Alright fine!” I marched toward the letter bent on reducing it to shreds. The draft reemerged and denied me the opportunity, sweeping the letter up, over the back of the bench then under it. Without a moment’s thought I dropped to my knees and quickly seized the letter before it could be taken up again. I caught it! Kneeling beneath the bench, the letter trapped by my fingers, I chuckled.
My name rang out in the open air and simultaneously within me as it had earlier. My head jerked upward, crashing into the bottom of the bench. I crawled out from beneath the bench and stood at attention. I stood still and carefully scanned around me. There wasn’t another soul in sight. Then, as prior to arriving at the park, I felt compelled to do that which seemed loathsome to every conscious fiber of my being. I sat down and began to read my mother’s letter.
First of all I want you to know I love you.
I love you Mary.
Second, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the ways that my choices as your mother may have made your childhood difficult.
You might not want to hear this, but I really did do the best that I could for you. I didn’t leave you because I wanted a better situation for me. At the time, it seemed like the best way to make sure you had the best future possible.
In case you’re thinking that me leaving was your fault, I want you to know it wasn’t. You really were the best daughter that a mother could ask for and leaving you was one of the hardest things that I ever had to do. I still think it was the best choice at the time. But it was the hardest choice.
Although we’re not as close, I’m grateful for the little I know about your life.
I’m proud of you and I’m happy to see all the things you have accomplished so far. I know that you will do even greater things in the future.
My biggest hope is that you would consider including me in your future.
I Love you.
The formerly irksome draft became a comforting friend; embracing me with gentle strength as streams of salty fury ran down my face. The fury gave way to an unfamiliar inward tension, as of invisible hands pushing doggedly against the walls of the stronghold erected to guard my heart. With one hand, I wept the nonsensical tears away from my face whilst the other hand balled up the letter. I shrugged off the draft’s embrace and arose, turning to somehow confront it.
“Stay out of my way.” I went to the disposal bin one final time, and released the balled-up letter. It fell to the bottom with no resistance. I glanced at my watch and started away from the garden, the inward tension remaining, and the words of my mother’s letter though buried in the bin, etched like an ignited incantation into the walls of my stronghold; demanding access to my heart.