Of poems, and memories, and the beating of a heavy heart

As I stood overlooking the beach last week, watching the children playing in the sand, I thought about my mother.

She had a poem on her refrigerator for so many years that it yellowed and flaked with age.  I think my sister Adrienne has the original from Mom’s house.  I don’t need it because I memorized the verse.  Mother did not know the author, but Ogden Nash wrote the sweet little poem:

 “I Didn’t Go To Church Today”:

I didn’t go to church today,
I trust the Lord to understand.
The surf was swirling blue and white,
The children swirling on the sand.
He knows, He knows how brief my stay,
How brief this spell of summer weather,
He knows when I am said and done
We’ll have plenty of time together.

I crept along the sidewalk to the Pacifica Pier, walking stick in one hand, the fingers of my other hand trailing along the metal pipe of the adjacent fence.  Strollers skirted around me, eyes flicking towards me above the cloth mask which has become our staple here in California.  Children hid behind barricades, springing out to startle their unsuspecting mothers.  Couples  cut over the wall and down to the beach, hands entwined, to walk along the edges of the water.  They held their shoes aloft and slung their jackets over their shoulders, gleeful in the unexpected warmth of the November air.

On the pier, fisher-folk lounged on benches near poles braced in metal holders at the rail.  Scores of tourists gathered at the far end, raising lenses to the distant horizon.  Clear water, with its piles of white foam, lapped the beach.  Body surfers lifted their hands in triumph as they rode the towering waves.

Later, wrapped in a shawl and perched on a folding chair outside my rented room, I watched the sky turn crimson with the last rays of the setting sun.  I thought about my son, three thousand miles away in cold Chicago, with its skyrocketing rates of this wicked virus.  The time and space between us widens with each passing day.  We used to send each other snapshots at sunset and sunrise, every photo more stunning than the last.  Somehow it helped to know that he saw the same sky as I did, with only a slight realignment of the rising moon.

Now in my little house, another day, another night, my heart beats heavy in my breast.  I draw in a breath; I hold it; I slowly let it go.  Weariness overtakes me.  I close my eyes and see my mother’s face and my son’s smile.  I hear the rippling, easy laughter of my sisters.   I yearn for the distant song of the sea, a memory now, but always there, always comforting, steady and strong.  I lay myself down to rest.

It’s the fourth day of the eighty-fourth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.



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