I call on the Beloved and easily sign my name on an agreement to lease out my late mother’s house. While the new tenants sign, I glance at the kitchen where we stand, its white counter and clean paint. Though darkness settles out the window, here all is bright.
But later, back at my own house, as I eat my chicken and green-bean dinner, a tear drips down my cheek. I don’t know why.
Later still, in the night, images come of times in that house.
It’s a kaleidoscope of kindness, anger, patience, impatience, joy, sadness, forgiveness and love, some 25 years between those walls with my mother.
The time I scalded the kitchen counter with a hot pan, only to lift the pan to the sink where it broke the porcelain, only to transfer it to the floor where it burnt the linoleum, all in less than a minute.
And my mother forgave me.
The time when Mom and I studied our scuba at the dining room table, trepidatiously preparing for our final checkout dive at the crystalline Blue Hole, a sinkhole in eastern New Mexico.
An afternoon of trying on wigs and headscarves during Mom’s chemo, when she’d lost her hair.
Mashing three times the number of potatoes for Thanksgiving in Mom’s Kitchenaid mixer so that she could have days of leftovers.
The time after her brother, sister and neighbor died that she took too many pills and I found her on the bedroom floor.
Just hours ago, the house empty, I gave a key to the new tenants.
They strode through to the living room, discussed where to place the TV, the armoire.
Now, in bed, I’m drawn to a poem by Rumi:
“And God said, ‘Why should I not sever from Myself
what I want and know is best? All is literally part of Me.
What of existence’s perfection and all events therein
can any eyes know . . . until their mind and all one’s
awareness is one with Me?’”
In the quiet of the night, in my own bed, with my cat Arjuna cushioned into my legs, I cry deep sobs, and then I see: This house that has been such a part of me is not mine, nor my mother’s. It is the Beloved’s. I own nothing. All is It.
I am no thing. I am the vibration of love.
My mother, that house, have been severed for my own good—like a tree pruned in infancy so all its power can shoot upward to the heavens.
This was our control center where we planned our adventures. We read guidebooks about Guatemala, Bolivia and Tuscany.
We fell asleep next to each other in the warm afternoon sun, her oxygen machine pumping a steady heartbeat.
This house was so much more than a house. It was a cocoon where we retreated from the world. It was a time machine where we journeyed to our childhoods and to our futures, a botanical garden where in spring we planted clematis and petunias.
We shed a hundred tears between its walls, laughed a thousand laughs over lost love, sick stomachs, aching limbs and heartfelt movies.
Our own ridiculous attachment to who we thought we were or should be, or wanted to be, but weren’t.
Me a successful writer, friend, mate, daughter.
She a successful mother, grandmother, companion, traveler.
We succeed and fail and fail and fail and yet we continue to love each other.
And with each parting I would hug her, and with each passing year we would hold on longer and more tightly, somewhere knowing, understanding, how precious the moments were.
She loved to talk of our adventures, to tell her caregivers, and even strangers, of our game of gin while sitting on the floor of the train station in Seoul when Korean men surrounded us. They sat on their haunches and hummed and hawed over each of our plays.
Of a flight from Bangkok to Katmandu in which most of the other passengers were small of stature but oddly bulky in their attire. Through whispers on the journey we learned that they were smuggling layers and layers of clothing into Nepal.
Of when I spent days doubled over in pain from amoebic dysentery in Kenya while a riot waged outside our hotel. She organized our clandestine escape from the country.
And so I recall how easily I slipped those keys into the tenant’s palm.
Keys to a box that appears to hold all of that love inside.
My mother and I both dreamed about houses: grand palaces, little shacks floating in a current, ones with Technicolor gardens, ones with hidden rooms that suddenly appeared.
And now, this dream of a house opens its doors to new inhabitants. And I release it, for I am not in the house, the house is in me.
All those memories, just experiences in the long road of eternity. All the Beloved.
Home art and images: Colleen and Jolene Buchanan
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