I wrote this at the Big Yellow. I have nothing to explain except to say I am a Mother and a Daughter and that has taught me more about Love than I could ever wish for.
Mother, she asked. How do you know when love is real?
All love is real, she said. She had that wise smile on her face her children would remember even when the call came about their Father. Even when they wheeled her into surgery, just before dawn and just after she wrote out the goodbyes that were not required after all.
Mother, she whispered. I love but I cry.
Do you cry because you feel or because you bleed? she asked.
She said, I don’t know, Mother. Sometimes memories and longing carry me to the silver stream where we used to camp. But then I fear I love too much and I wonder if I will be swallowed by it.
Mother paused. The movement of her arms and chin barely flickered. She smiled again.
“Daughter” she said, “There is no too much love. There is only enough love.
But separation causes pain, she said.
Yes, mother said, that is love.
Moments feel like days, she said.
Yes, that is love.
I forget myself, she said
That is love too. Mother’s green eyes looked straight ahead. She lifted her chin and waited.
But I’m told I care too much, expect too much, that I am too sensitive, that I am too vulnerable. I’m told I would survive.
That is incorrect. Mother said.
But if it’s incorrect, how can I explain that?
And it’s incorrect, how will I know?
You must see if she whimpers when you brush her hair and if she sings when the sun rises, just when the birds begin. You must watch how she reaches in her pockets and whether she notices the northern star. You must toss your head back and laugh when she tells you you love too much, and you must wait to let her character unfold.
But, Mother. How do you protect yourself?
You don’t, she said.
But what if love is not enough?
But what if you dance and then ache and then double over at midnight?
Mother smiled again. You wait, and then you see.
Mother, I love her.
Then you will let the angels guide you. You will risk everything.
My Mother walked to the sink and quietly folded the cotton dishcloth in half and then again. She patted twice it with both hands and turned to me.
Love is all you will ever need she said. It will bring you everything. Without it you will die.
But mother, how do I know?
You have to listen. You have to study and choose a pure and precious heart.
How, Mother? Can you tell from birthday gifts, or kisses on the forehead, or from the nights when my moans strip me naked and I can only hope I am not devoured?
My Mother smiled. Love comes from your own heart. It is the place you can only know when you have arrived there.
Mother, is it like the love I have for you?.
Will it cause me to enter a burning building?
Will it bring me to my knees?
Will it last, mother?
Love always lasts. It is only hope that doesn’t.
But can there be love without hope?
Mother took two steps back. She braced her arms and softly fell into the chair.
Daughter, she said. I am old. I have watched a child die, lost my husband two hours after he finished breakfast, survived a life of hunger and poverty, and sacrified everything for my children. I tell you that once love enters your heart, it lives there forever. You can be scorched, abandoned, forgotten or misused. You can lose all hope. But you never ever lose love. Love is like just like that. It takes root and before you know it, you’re all tangled.
And you’re tamed.