This is one of those stories that had to be written right now and if I didn’t take the time right now to throw words on the page I might have lost courage. I come from a long line of WASP-y people who do our best to not show emotions.
I am a poet and an actor. Asking me to not show emotions is like telling me not to breathe. The way I don’t show emotions is to completely shut off my creativity which I have done on more than one occasion but tonight, in the corner of my living room in Bakersfield, California this is a story that is begging to be heard, felt and shared.
I don’t have an image to share on social media that captures the best gift I received in 2018.
I will never forget it. It can never be replicated. I was both wholly alone and entirely connected in the less than five minutes this gift existed.
It was after a more than slightly unconventional to me Christmas Eve service in a small church in Flagstaff, Arizona. I was the last of my family group to arrive as I slid into the seat next to my sister-in-law. I greeted my brother, who was seated on the other side of my mother, and my sister, her husband and my niece who were sitting in the row behind us.
When the service ended, I stood and waited to greet my eighty-six-year-old mother as she left the pew.
I didn’t expect her to grab my hand and hold it with such tight insistence. It was then I noticed her other hand gripping the cane she had acquired in the months between this and my last visit.
My hand had never been held so tightly, with such fierce determination and so much love.
She let go of my hand only to shake the pastor’s hand as we left the sanctuary.
It didn’t matter that the piercing cold hit my face with force or that I didn’t know what car we were walking her toward. What mattered was she chose me to hold her hand on that cold Christmas Eve.
None of our past aches entered the silence we shared as we focused on each step we took. None of our misunderstandings or lost moments or fretting about endless minor details that often come between a mother and daughter rose above our sole intention: to stay connected as we got Mom safely home.
I helped my mother into my brother’s car and while I am sure arrangements were discussed for me to meet the family back at the house before I turned and walked alone to my car I don’t remember a word.
I remember using my phone’s flashlight to reach my cold car parked on the edge of the unlit parking lot. The pine trees stood silently as I started to cry, suddenly so grateful my children opted not to come to church. Their absence gave me this opportunity to be my mother’s guide and for that brief moment in time, be the most important person in her life – a rarity when one is born into a family with six children.
Earlier that morning I spoke with my father whose biggest news was Mom hadn’t fallen in the last two and a half months. This was a relief to him and good news to me since I knew her falling was now much too regular as her experience of Parkinson’s disease progressed.
I’ve heard people discussing gifts in the days that have gone by since Christmas, but I have remained silent, softly smiling. I don’t have an image to share on social media that captures the best gift I received in 2018.
Julie JordanScott, the Creative Life Midwife, is a writer, a poet performer, a Creativity Coach, a Mother of three and one of Nancy Shryock Jordan’s daughters. When she was thirteen-years-old her mother surprised her with a guitar from Santa, all four grandparents and her parents. That was the first time Julie received a gift from her mother she didn’t know she wanted.