Andi Cumbo - Writer, Editor, Online Writing Courses, Classes & Lessons

Memories, Stories, Mom

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There would be no new memories of him. The only stories we could tell were the ones we already had. – Jonathan Franzen

Yesterday, Dad sat beside me on the puppy-chewed sofa and said, “I wish your mother could be here. She would love all of this.” He said it with a smile, a joy of recognition. I agreed, even as I teared up.  She would love this – all the planning for the wedding, all the dreams for the farm.  5132453849

I can see her at the concerts, in a corner or behind the long table where the mostly empty dishes from our potluck sit. She’s listening to the music while she slides foil and plastic lids back on casserole dishes.  Every once in a while, she looks up at the band, watches with a quiet smile, lets the music slide into her with a complexity I have never understood.

***

1o years ago. 15 year ago, I’m sitting at her kitchen counter, a stool pulled up by the phone. She’s across the formica, making breakfast, making dinner.  “Listen to this. It’s one of my favorite songs.”

“Poughkeepsie” by Over the Rhine pours over her stereo.  She stops, breathes it in.

“Can you make me a copy of that?”

The summer after she dies I park beside the Hudson at the low end of Poughkeepsie and watch two Canada geese swim by.  I sing the song almost silently to myself.  I remember Mom’s counter, her hands. Her listening.

***

Almost every day I called Mom. I heard her stories some, rarely shared with anyone in her way of living learned so young when too much sharing meant creating ammunition.

But mostly she heard mine. Spoke of what I may need. She took me in with a complexity that most people do not – she knew me to be more than artsy, more than eco-conscious, more than bookish, more than introverted.  She listened to me with more complexity than I knew I had.

Now, I often imagine telling her stories, the ones I write out in quieter words here on this blog.

And with Dad, I wish she was here to see all this place, to meet this man who does and will know me with as much nuance as she did, to see how I have finally grown into all she knew I could be – content, joyful, fully myself.

But in some ways, it is her absence, the loosing of my tie to her listening voice, the need to find other ways to live my stories that makes me so.

And that breaks my heart.  I expect it gives hers a quiet joy.

The winner of Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl is Diana Trautwein.  Thanks to everyone who entered. 

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Author: Andi

I am a writer, editor, and writing teacher whose most recent book, The Slaves Have Names, tells the story of the people who were enslaved on the plantation where I was raised. When I'm not working, my husband and I are working to make our small farm - God's Whisper Farm - a retreat here at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.