I looked out of the front door and saw the sunny, leaf-covered yard of my childhood home. A small sob rose in my throat, “Oh, mama!” The scene instantly vanished and my eyes flew open. I had just been sleeping; it was only a dream in an afternoon nap, I realized as I sat up.
As the vision that had rested in my mind’s eye began to fade, the strings of my heart were stretched taut and pulled back into other memories; to a time when the big maple tree ruled the small front yard of my family’s home; to a time when the dry autumn grass would be buried under the bounty of its golden leaves.
Each year my mother would complain over the seemingly endless chore of raking of them and each day more and more would fall. Who would have thought the old tree had held so many in its arms, had been so rich. In my dream as I had looked out on that leaf-filled yard I knew that mother was gone and that it had now fallen to me to brush the ground clean and ready it for the coming winter snows.
In that instant I felt a stab of love for the long departed mother who had been both a support and burden to me throughout my life. “Oh, mama,” was the cry of a child who awoke from a frightening dream with arms outstretched, the cry of a sad girl who felt alone, the cry of a woman asking for forgiveness for her selfishness and neglect. “Oh, mama – love me, protect me, hold me, forgive me. I’m sorry,” all tangled and braided together in one long strand of yearning backward through time like a blind root seeking sustenance.
And while my heart was reverberating to the chord of the past, the maple stood composed and patient as trees so often do while it waited for me to pick up the rake with its worn wooden handle and rusting tines, to continue the yearly ritual of life, to accept the responsibility of its care as had been bequeathed to me – if only in dreamtime.
“Oh, mama,” my heart says as I rake up the scattered pieces of the day and ready myself for the long winter nights to come, “how I miss you.”