Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: THE WHOLE WORLD IN GOD’S HANDS (not the song) (05/28/15)
- TITLE: A Moment out of the Mist
By Ann Grover
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Minor. So far.
“Karen?” Mom was waiting at the top of the stairs. “Where are you?”
“Getting the laundry. Ready for tea, Mom?” I looked at the clock. Was it only ten-thirty?
“That would be lovely.”
“Is your show over?”
“I’m not sure.” She followed me into the kitchen, babbling about Bryan and Deirdre and Gail and a garbled plot line, some of which I recognized from twenty-five years ago when my babies were tiny. Well, that’s the way with soap operas. Miss a decade or three, and you haven’t missed anything.
I set her tea and digestive biscuits on the table. “Careful, it’s hot.”
“I like hot tea. I don’t like ice tea.”
“No, you never did.” I put away the towels and took chicken breasts out of the freezer for supper. Along with a bottle of dish soap.
“I like ice cream. Do we have ice cream, Karen?”
“No, Mom, but we’ll get some. Strawberry?” I’d discovered the last carton in the pantry, Pepto-Bismol-hued dribbles trickling onto the shelf below.
She kept talking, between sips and bites, about her bygone gardens, growing strawberries and potatoes, zucchini and tomatoes. I daydreamed in and out of her conversation, remembering that long-ago life, when neighbourhood kids gathered in our backyard, and Mom dispensed gallons of Kool-Aid, buckets of cookies, bushels of love and kindness.
Who was this woman masquerading as my mother, wearing her blue cardigan and wedding rings, her tapered fingers smeared with raspberry-red nail polish?
“You should rest.”
“Sure.” I would, when this was over. Over. I couldn’t bear the thought, so I didn’t. “How about some Christmas music?”
“I want to go shopping. To get toys for the kids,” she bubbled.
The “kids” were grown up. I looked outside at the snow-covered ground, the pewter sky.
“Not today, Mom.”
“I want to go shopping.”
“The roads are bad.” I said a quick prayer for Gavin driving between Calgary and Vancouver. Mom had finished her tea, so I led her back to the living room. As if reading my thoughts, she asked,
“How’s your young man? Wedding bells going to ring?”
“Mom, we’ve been married for...” I stopped. The doctor said to agree with her whenever possible. I put Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” CD in the player.
“Mom, isn’t the tree pretty? How about you listen to the music for a bit, then we’ll do some Christmas baking. Would you like that?”
I locked myself in the bathroom. A haggard face, framed by frowsy hair, peered at me from the mirror. Lord, I can’t do this anymore. The constant vigilance and fear. Gavin always on the road. The lump under my arm. I touched it, willing my fingers to find smooth skin. Still there, menacing.
When I returned, Mom was in the kitchen. The countertop was covered with an array of ingredients and utensils: ketchup, molasses, milk, crackers, pickles. Mixer. Blender. Cleaver. Dear God.
“Hey, you started without me, Mom.”
“Let’s make Butter Pecan Cookies. I like them at Christmas,” she suggested gaily.
“Good idea. Want to cream the butter?”
She stirred, the wooden spoon keeping up an irregular “thunkety-thunk.” She hummed along with Bing, murmuring an occasional word, dreaming ... Bethlehem ... joyful. I added sugar to her bowl.
The “thunking” stopped while I was setting the oven. I turned. Mom was holding something in her cupped hands, gazing intently at it as if it were the Hope Diamond.
It was a pecan.
“‘God made it. God loves it. God keeps it.’”
“Julian of Norwich, Karen. She had a vision of God holding the world, the universe, as if it were a small brown nut in His hands. So fragile, yet safe with Him.”
She smiled at me, a look that was pure Mom.
“Everything He does, He does in love. You should read Julian of Norwich, Karen. Very comforting.”
She dropped the nut into her pocket and humming falteringly, resumed her unsteady blending of the cookie dough.
Thank you, Mom.
*Julian of Norwich (1342- ca.1416)
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