I hid under her long, flowing cotton skirt. I was safe from the outside world. I played with the buckles on her Birkenstocks while she talked to an adult I didn’t know. After the stranger had left, I crawled out into the light.
My mom leaning over asked, “Shall we go pick apricots and make a pie, Kristal?” I jumped up and down as if I had just won a big prize.
Here’s me (far left) with my mom and little sister in the mid-1970s on our commune farm.
Barefoot, I ran to an acre of land full of persimmon and apricot trees on our communal farm. My mom made a makeshift basket from her skirt as we picked each juicy piece of fruit.
In the kitchen, I helped her kneed the dough. Laughing with flour on my nose, she told me, “You are cute as a button.” The sweet smell of the apricot pie enveloped my senses. As a child, waiting for pie to finish baking seemed like an eternity.
The steam from the pie would swirl and spiral as my mom cut each slice. We would sit at our antique round cherry wood table with its lines and marks worn from meals being served for generations. I could hear the crackling of our wood-burning stove.
Now at the age of 41, I savor these childhood memories with my mother. I consider these moments with my mom priceless gifts.
As parents, the first few seconds we see our children open their eyes and scream in the delivery room, we finally have an understanding of the deep love and sacrifice our own parents made day after day.
The late nights. The meals cooked. The laundry. The cleaning. The bank accounts drained. The backbreaking jobs. The patience. Oh, good Lord, the patience my mother demonstrated.
Frankly, I wonder how she put up with me sometimes. Her open-minded, peace-loving attitude must have carried her through all those moments from a toddling terror, careless child, to terrifying teen. (I know it also didn’t hurt that she kept a bottle of Valium and a joint in the kitchen cabinet either).
Now that my parents are in their seventies, I am dreading the day my phone rings with “the news.” I gently tease my two little daughters that I am going to give them the “stop-growing pill.” Well, I want to give my parents the “stop-aging pill.”
I want to beg them not to go. They have given me so many gifts.
I thought of my parents’ mortality more recently when they came to visit. I had called them a few weeks ago in the hopes they could help me with a rather big project – a surprise garage makeover for my husband.
My parents (mostly my mom) love these types of design and remodel challenges. Additionally, they are now both retired so they have a bit more free time on their hands.
Seriously, we worked like dogs for three days organizing, moving, cleaning, purging, shopping, unloading, loading, scraping, boxing, hanging, hammering, climbing – and sometimes arguing.
Here was the end result:
After they left, I sat down in the garage. It was quiet and cold. Tears filled my eyes. It wasn’t because I had this well-organized half-man cave, half-playroom for my family.
It was the gift of love and time from my parents. They keep giving and loving without asking for anything in return.
No, we weren’t the Beaver-Cleaver Family growing up. But they loved me. They continue to give me so many gifts.
Just like my memories of baking apricot pies with my mom, I will always remember when my parents worked alongside me in my garage for three days.
In the quietness of the night, I confessed to my husband that I hope this is not their last act of love before they go…
In my heart, the moments I share with them are gifts to be cherished for a lifetime.
In closing, I’d like to share with you an excerpt from a post from a good blogger and writer friend of mine Molly Field, who discusses the mortality of her parents so poignantly in a recent post:
“Post 200. Be Present, Regret Nothing, Take Chances”
So being the only daughter and nearest my parents means this bowling ball inevitably will roll my way. I am a duckpin. In the corner. Number 10, hiding behind all the others and hoping that heavy, slow, lumbering Brunswick or AMF ball, its approach like thunder in the distance, will find its way into the gutter and not hit me, but I know it will. I am a member of the sandwich generation and the way I see it: you haven’t fully lived until you are.
When the time comes, when it gets intense and sad and truly inevitable (as if it isn’t already), my sibs will be on board; I know this. But no way you slice this: it’s going to be work…
I plan to take Molly’s advice and do just that. Be present, be here and work…after all, moments matter.
Do you have priceless memories you’d like to share of a special moment with your parent(s)? What acts of unconditional love do your parent(s) continue to demonstrate?