Thursday, February 01, 2018

What Do You Know Now That You Wish You Had Known Then?

When I was in fifth or sixth grade, I used to walk across the street to take the bus to school.  You could see the bus stop from our kitchen window.

One day, I accidentally left my alto saxophone sitting on the sidewalk while I chatted my way onto the bus.  I remember the Santa Ana winds that day, too.  It was so dry, even so early in the morning.  At some point, the bus turned around so I could get my instrument, but when we returned to the bus stop, it was gone.

I. Freaked. The. F. Out. The wind blowing and swirling around me.

I don't remember all the details now, but the bus ended up leaving me so I could walk back across the street to tell my mom what a failure I was.  I remember hyperventilating to the point of uncontrollably crying as the wind rushed through the trees and blew a styrofoam cup down the street.  That was an awfully long walk on the way to tell my tell my tell my mom I had failed. That I wasn't responsible.

When I walked in the front door, I found the saxophone in my living room and my mom waiting for me.  She had clearly seen me coming.  And she didn't chastise me or make me feel stupid.  In fact, she didn't say a word.

She greeted me with a hug that I still remember to this very moment.  She held me tight, and I held her tighter as my tears turned from terror to joy.

And I loved her.


My mom passed away about two weeks ago, and I have thought about that moment a lot: that timeless, splendid hug.  It seems so perfect.  Like how it was "supposed to be."  A quiet understanding between a mother and her son.  I can't say we had a lot of those moments.  But we had that one.  We had that one...

At her funeral last week, I was supposed to say something.  Do something.  Capture something about her life.  I didn't know what to say.  And it was hot again.  And dry.  And the walk was long and lonely from my chair to the front of the funeral.  I looked through tear-filled eyes out into a crowd to say goodbye.

I didn't say much, as I feared hyperventilating...and swirls of emotions rushed through me.  She wouldn't be there to hug me this time.  There would be no timeless, splendid hug. Ever again.

I ended up reading the lyrics to this song I remember her singing at a piano at a relative's house one day.  I was probably in junior high.  She had this artistic side, after all.  She wrote. She sang.  She performed. She joked.  She laughed.

So I read the lyrics to that song: Those Were the Days My Friend, by Mary Hopkin...and I watched her clap and dance and sing in my head while I read those lyrics through tears and heat and pain.

And I missed her.


It seems so silly now, being worried about that stupid instrument.  But I had to go through that pain, and that walk, those tears, to get to that perfect, timeless, splendid hug.

And as I walk through life now...thinking about what I know now that I wish I had known then...I realize that those were the days, and they will never end.


Michelle Pacansky-Brock said...

Mark, thank you for your moving post. I am so sorry to hear of your mom's passing and we are all indebted to you for sharing this story with us. As I read, it took me right back to two similar childhood memories I have. It's amazing how starkly those painful, emotional memories get imprinted on us isn't it? It's also amazing how the love and generosity of others does the same. Your mom will forever live through your powerful stories. Keep sharing.

Happy to have you here in our club. :)

Sheri Edwards said...

Mark, Thank you for sharing this heartfelt story-- and reminding us of unconditional love. I recently read a book, where one line stood out to me: Love more, not less. That's what your mother shared in that moment. Your message to me is similar: be thankful for each moment; always give love; always receive love as well. Thank you, ~ Sheri