Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Grieving and the expansion of good memories

I've been thinking a lot about my Mom and especially how happy and relaxed she was when we all went to Turkey Run State Park in Indiana. I Googled the park and then the memories really came flooding back. The short trail with 140 steps, the ledge where the turkeys used to roost, the rock outcropping along the river's edge where we found the fossil I still have, and especially the ladders you have to climb from the gorge bottom up to the cliffs on one trail. Amazingly they are still part of that trail - they seemed much taller when I was a child though!

I need a writing sample to read out loud at the start of the writing workshop I am attending at the end of the month. It is being led by author Janisse Ray and held at my friends' N. Georgia retreat center. I will focus on nature and memoir writing so I am taking time to think about Mom and write about her. Here's the start:

She loved birds, being a homemaker, her children, dogs, her daughter in law and son in law, Turkey Run, her friends, going out to eat, her grandsons and great granddaughter, reading, art, cookies and ice cream, having seen parts of the world, history, old sitcoms and movies, shopping for new things, day trips, letters, Simon Pearce restaurant, her library and local historical society, her nieces and nephews, her Aunt Juanita, trees, her Dad and Step Mom, getting new clothes, laughing, plays, talking about her past, decorating the house, flowers, and my Dad. Oh how she loved my Dad. And she was courageous.

That is what I wrote when I was brainstorming how to personalize my Mom’s obituary after she died this past April. It didn’t all make it into the obituary but part of what has been running through my mind since then is that she loved birds, flowers, and going to Turkey Run. I have remembered how she was my introduction to loving nature.

As an adult I tended to think more about how we were different than about what we shared. Since she died in April what keeps popping into my head is the fact that my love of nature was nurtured by her. She was very connected to the earth and noticed every bird, flower, tree, and animal – all the things alive around her. Dad share her interest in birds and animals but he was less tethered to the ground. He shared his joy in flying through the air and traveling across water. Mom pointed out the small wonders of the world and shared her favorite places.

As a small child we would take little journeys early in the Spring to the piece of yard under my bedroom window to see if the violets were up and blooming. They always seemed to be available for putting in the May baskets that she had me weave from strips of paper and hang on our neighbors’ doors.

In the summer she showed us how to catch fire flies in jars that had holes punched in the lids and we would use them as nightlights in the yard and then let them go before bed.

Then there were the day trips to Turkey Run state park in Indiana. We always took a hike. When I was little it was the trail along the river that crossed using the covered bridge. Usually there was a deer siting for added adventure. As I got older we went on the harder trails including one that required climbing wooden ladders up a cliff from the trail in the ravine bottom. I was sure those would be no longer there (insurance you know) but I just looked on line and they are definitely still part of the trail. Wow, those photos really dredged up nice memories of walking and climbing in those specific spots. Part of the fun besides the geology, animals, river and hiking was that this was one place where my Mom let go of her fears that someone would get hurt. She never admonished us to be careful when we were there.

I left home right after high school and throughout the rest of her life I received letters and calls that talked about the birds and animals she had seen or the flowers that were just planted or blooming. When she came to visit us wherever we lived she always wanted to know the names of the birds, plants and trees that were different than the ones she knew. Memorizing facts has never been a strength of mine so I rarely could answer. That has created an ongoing joke and favorite memory.

We were all at our house in Glendale and she saw a small brown bird outside the kitchen window. Probably some kind of sparrow or wren but then most birds in Southern California tend to be brownish. She asked me what kind of bird it was and of course I didn’t know. It was thus declared a LBB – little brown bird forever. Even in the last year of her life she would refer to seeing LBBs out her window and I loved that connection.


  1. What lovely memories of your mom. She sounds like such a special woman. My mom has been gone for many years now and we never had a good relationship, but I miss her every day.

  2. I would have enjoyed meeting your mom. You are blessed to have good memories like these. She will live on through you.
    I hope you have a great time at your writing workshop.

  3. That's what it's all about, isn't it, the passing of things -- knowledge, interests, personality -- down from parent to child? It seems your mother was very successful.

  4. Thank you for the lovely comments.