The old ways end now
Here is a blank page for me
First step on new snow
… but I was already connected to the world by a much stronger cord than this thin string that holds my spirit to my body.
The urge to look up and let the moon fill me, head to nine year old toes was a primal call. And once the family was sleeping, I would raise the venetian blinds behind the head of my bed and let that wash of silver light pour into my upturned face, there on my pillow- but only on certain days of the year.
I didn’t realize it then but I was feeling seasons and rotations of the Earth; large celestial movements that put the moon high or low in the sky, or- it seemed, not in the sky at all.
I didn’t realize it then but the hours spent high in the branches of my willow tree, letting her sway me back and forth; letting the wind comb my hair in all directions- that I was learning the eddy of wind; microbursts and gales that showed themselves to me in small movements in my Illinois yard- later learning that they move that way all across the planet. And some child on the other side of the globe, in time, might inhale a breath that I had exhaled on the wind while high up in my tree.
I didn’t realize it then, that every moment of my life has been a step, a hop, a stumble, a fall, a rising up again on the road that can only be viewed from the mountain of time we build by living every day.
If I close my eyes, I can see her standing there. She would lean against the kitchen counter facing me; her right foot flat on the floor, left bent at the knee with her white sneaker balanced toe down, heel up, crossed at the ankle. Her left arm would be held across her body; hand cupping her right elbow. Her right arm held high and away from her face by about eight inches as the ashes built precariously on her Lucky Strike while she chatted me up. I’d watch the ash build, wondering if she’d see it and tap it off into her empty cup or let it fall to the floor like a gray ash snake. Occasionally, she’d stop talking and bring her cigarette hand to her mouth to use her ring finger and thumb to capture an errant bit of tobacco that escaped the unfiltered, paper death stick she so dearly loved.
That was it. My mother’s stance. I saw it a thousand times and it was so iconic, it’s the first image I have when I think of her.
Carol, my friend, pondered a moment as we talked about the women who bore us and with amusement, shared her own memory. Her mother would stand at the ironing board with her father’s damp shirts rolled and ready to take the iron stacked neatly next to her. A vodka drink close at hand, she would stand in the classic crane pose; one foot flat on the ground, the other set flat against her thigh as she would sip and smoke and iron the wrinkles into a neat and orderly garment for her father to wear to work. Her own little perfect housewife rebellion took expected chores and added a dash of badass to make them not quite as tedious and boring as they actually were. That was her mother’s stance.
Stance. I like that word. It can refer to the way one shifts their weight off both feet and onto favoring one over the other. Or it can refer to the way we approach the world; battle stance, relaxed stance, nervous stance… There’s something playful about taking a stance that is slightly off balance when doing things that have become autonomic tasks; chatting, ironing, doing dishes and such. A muscle memory from ballet classes attended before the world went to war the second time.
It makes me curious to wonder if other people remember their own mothers iconic stance, or perhaps, have unknowingly adopted it as their own. I wonder if my own children think that I have one?
I have no clue what it would be, as I’m sure my own mother was also unaware that she was doing something that 25 years after she left the world, would still remain a gesture distinctively hers.
A Collective of Poets in the Leelanau Peninsula of Michigan
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