Saturday, July 14, 2012

Swinging in the Rain

 The clouds that night were angrily balling into thunderous fists. Flashes of lightning slashed through the cold, damp night, momentarily illuminating the little tree in the front yard, the mailbox by the road, and the row of the neighbor’s evergreens dividing our lawns.


Mom and I were standing on the tiny front porch of our three-bedroom house in the country, taking it all in like a drive-in movie. The roof over the porch gave us little protection against the rain that was now coming in sheets straight at us. We gathered our rain ponchos closer around us as we watched in awe the wonder of a spring storm in the Midwest.

We were practically giddy.
I loved these times with my mother. I always felt closer to her—she felt so far away most of the time. But, when we watched the storms gather, when she pointed out to me the clouds that looked like they were forming into funnels, or on clearer nights, when she took the time to point out the constellations for me, I got caught up in her excitement, and felt impressed by her knowledge.

I also was awed and somewhat alarmed by her bravery in facing the elements, be it nature’s storms or roller coasters at the amusement park.

As often as I witnessed my mother ‘s adventurous spirit, I was continually startled when she stepped outside the box my child’s mind had put her in. Quiet, reserved, wise, talented, all business, emotionless, stern, and distant are words I usually would use to describe her. Words like fun, dare devil, adventuresome, joyous, carefree, irreverent, humorous never came to mind except when we were out on the porch.

I also recall the time, during a particularly rainy day of camping, when she gathered all five of us little ducklings wearing our ever-present rain ponchos. Declaring she was tired of being cooped in a tent all day, she led us to the playground where we all swung and played in the rain with her playing right alongside us.

Then there were the times we went to a campground by Lake Michigan. There a path through a small thicket of woods that led straight to the ragged shore where we would each lean against one of the boulders and let the Great Lake hit us with furious waves, laughing uproariously at every assault of water.

Now at nearly 78, my mom’s spirit seems more and more subdued every year. She says she’s tired of travelling, that she’s seen about everything she wanted to see and done most things she wanted to do, and now it’s time to stay closer to home.

I’m trying to understand this newest stage of my mother’s life, but I fear much of the life that was in her, and expressed itself only on occasion, is dying too young. I’m afraid she’s given up too much too quickly.

Then again, I’m not used to her actually looking and acting her age. And, admittedly, I don’t live in her body or see things through her eyes. But I want to see that spark in her eyes, hear that lilt in her laugh, watch that spirit of adventure come out and play with my spirit of wonder again. I’m not ready to act my age.

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