It was a long drive back from the airport. My mother was steering, and I sat in the passenger seat. She was talking and I was listening, daydreaming, as usual.
“I was beginning to worry if you were my daughter!” she said dramatically. “You didn’t like to read, and I liked to read so much!” I’d heard this story before”I lived it as much as she did–but let her have the fun of telling a memory the way she saw it.
“But then you asked me,” she continued, “‘Mom, have you ever read a book and not wanted it to end?’ and I said ‘Aww…yes! She IS mine!” She was glowing. “Do you remember what book that was?” grinning. She wanted to answer for me.
…Ella Enchanted. A swell rose inside of me as I looked out the window. A crossroad appeared. Should I tell her? My right foot began to nod back and forth like a windshield wiper in a rainstorm”like another scene to one of her favorite stories”and my right hand stroked through the ends of short hair. That’s what I always do when I’m nervous.
She was beginning to trail off into another course of thought, but I stopped her.
“Do you know why I said that?” I asked, taking control of the moment.
“I want to know,” she said. She was getting emotional again, as usual.
Tears were welling up inside the part of me that feels these things. I tried to slow my breathing and continue; but hot air was boiling, rising and choking me up. I remembered that moment. I remembered that book. I remembered her telling that story and me not saying anything then, somehow knowing there would be a better time in the future to speak up. Now was the time I had imagined.
“I said that because…” trying to pull myself together, I couldn’t make eye contact but I could see her out of the corner of my eye.
She was also looking off into the distance, into the ground beyond what was immediately ahead in the road before of the windshield. “…that was the book I was reading when it happened.” It will be ok “I had a before and after. It went down to the page I was on when you got a divorce. That book was like a time capsule. I didn’t want it to end because then it meant that that part of my life was over.”
Maybe it’s silly to cling to these things, but I did that with as many of my things that I could”cherry chap stick that I used before and wouldn’t use again, a beginning of a book that I could never re-read. Parts of myself”when I had a happy family–were stored within. I didn’t want to rewrite my history so I left them there, and clung. Maybe if my past lives existed there I could rematch them whenever I needed to and connect that way. And live that way. Maybe you don’t need to read when you don’t need to escape.
She started to tear up, I started to tear up. She said something comforting. Although we didn’t look directly at one another, we could feel that the past didn’t have to hurt anymore. The memory swelled and then it passed. We allowed the pain to live, and pass. For one of the first times, my mother and I united our separate memories in union. A cut that singed over a decade ago was allowed to heal. And our tears dried as we began to smile.