The tall thick blades of wild barley grass grew beside the cement steps that led to a sidewalk which wrapped around half of our farm house. It didn’t lead anywhere but it was good for learning how to roller-skate. Pink and white peony bushes were scattered across our large lawn. The lilac tree grew as tall as the garage and bridal’s wreath surrounded the screened-in front porch where we would celebrate our birthdays together—mother and daughter. They were just two days apart and nature’s beauty would unfold around us each summer as we welcomed in a new season of life.
That was many years ago. Over the recent decades, we shared our celebrations near the water. It’s no surprise I chose the Island for my birthday destination again this year. When Todd asked me what I wanted to do for my sixtieth I thought I should say something like, Go to Paris, so I did. He looked into it and found a place to stay but in the end, I decided to do what I’ve done for years.
We arrived last night and discovered something remarkable. The water has risen. It’s working its way back to the sandy beach it once bordered. My stone path, originally laid to create a water route, is halfway submerged.
“What does that mean?” I was surprised to hear Todd ask. “I’ll let you figure it out.”
“Will it reach the house?” I asked.
“Maybe with global warming in about twenty years.”
I have a recurring dream of huge waves about to hit me. Even twenty years off, I worried about the cabin being washed away and wondered if I would be here to take care of it. Then I let my thoughts go. Water is good, especially after summers of draught. I chose to see it as a small miracle.
As I look out over the prairie grass growing in front of the lake I remember sitting beside Mom on the cement steps of our farm. She would pull a tall green blade off, place it between her thumb knuckles and blow. I’d try but could never make my grass sound like hers. How did you do that? I’d ask listening to her horn sound. She’d tell me she learned it growing up on the farm. Now I grow a small patch of barley grass in my garden because it reminds me of her and I can make it blare like a shofar.
She comes to me in the smallest unexpected moments—in the small white clover spread out across the hill overlooking the lake at home. She taught me how to pull one tiny petal off and sip its sweet nectar. She sits beside me, smiling, when I catch myself holding a finger over my lips, caught deep in thought as I chew, like she did and as her mother did. When I asked her why Grandma always did that annoying little habit, she told me it was to keep her dentures in place. My mom didn’t wear dentures and neither do I so I guess it’s also a way to hold our memories of each other in place.
Today would have been my mom’s eighty-fifth birthday. Though she won’t be here to make me eggs benedict for breakfast or go to Siever’s for a gift, I’ll still be celebrating with her. I’ll pull out the card she gave me on our last birthday together. She made it, pressed the flowers on the cover and wrote it long-hand, filling two pages with her beautiful words. I’ll be able to hear her voice as I reread it for the umpteenth time.
I’m entering a new season of life and might have to stop tossing out my AARP notices. That’s funny to think about. If anyone tells you that turning sixty sucks tell them where they can shove it. The wisdom gained through decades of living is greater than anything the world can offer. It is freedom. While it’s true that I’ll always be trying to overcome something about myself, I’ve promised to accept a few things. I am not comfortable with big crowds, small spaces, politics or intellects but I cope. I will embrace the fact that I am a plodder who prefers quiet.
Peonies, lilacs and bridal’s wreath will always be my favorite flowers and they bloom every year without help from anyone on earth. As a mind thrives on new understanding, as a heart lifts with adoration, as beauty and color emerge from lifeless branches and as water moves its way back to the sand after decades of draught, a spirit watered will continue to bloom and produce.
Just when I think I’m missing my mom, her lessons and love return again and again and I am reminded that life is endlessly new and full of God’s miracles when we look for them. So, Todd, I guess that’s what the water rising means.