I wrote EMBERS AND ASH some years ago, or so. I don’t remember the precise day, I remember the unhappy circumstance. I needed to come home. I was unwell. Truth, I was out of my fucking mind and the only person I wanted, needed and trusted was the one who birthed me. Her ferocious, constant, capable mother-love was the only thing that was not spinning out of control. The one I counted on, shared every milestone, pain, triumph, the prettiest and ugliest parts of myself. All the minutia that comes with living and choosing the risk of loving. I never wanted to come back home, no, no, no. Not in a million years. That for me meant failure, big time. What would the peanut gallery say? It still stings when I think about it too long, when I’m beating myself up which is more often than not. I’m not well, get over it, fight and it is what it is. That’s what she’d say, her voice drilled in my head that keeps me alive, grounded to the earth.
Here I am, years later. Home, in her rock solid house. I’m so fucking grateful to wake up knowing she is downstairs waiting. I hear the familiar sounds, the heavy gait puttering around the kitchen. I don’t have to hear her at all I know instinctively from the air I breathe easier. Her mind is sharp her body willing yet less able, the terrifying reminder she is mortal after-all. God gave me a horrible burden to bear, but gifted me one superhuman willing to stick it out, fight with me and for me when I can’t. Love is the risk worth taking no matter the hurt, fear, what lies ahead. I remind myself, over and over. I am not a mother, I only understand the depths, beauty and bitter-sweetness from her side.
It’s what I know. The one truth I’ve learned that matters.
Then, and now.
EMBERS AND ASH
by Jacqueline Cioffa
Oh dear, have you seen her? She was right here a minute ago. I swear. I can still smell her cheap $5.00 perfume and tobacco trail. I didn’t know. I was ill prepared, unfit for this thing called a lifespan. How to navigate the hillbilly, redneck back roads without a compass of one’s own? Abandoned, side tracked, lost in the strange moments rolled into one. Bone crushing, blood pulsing, cotton candy sticky, all-consuming love. I have not been on the other side; I do not know how she feels. I did not experience the pain of giving birth, the miracle of a helpless creature cradled in her arms, heart to heart beating. To feel precisely how she feels, thinks. I cannot know. I am out of my depth, in foreign waters. The grown up child still needs her, close. The mere presence calms the rattled, shaky, knee scraped bones. I could never be that good. Selfless, compassionate, proud to mop floors, cook dinners, wash clothes and carry heavy loads without fuss. A lifetime of that kind of fierce love wears you down. Even the strongest, most stubborn, willful adoration wilts. Overtime. It happens. The love is not lost, it simply turns down the volume. Nature and time see things differently. The well-oiled machine in sync with the needs of her child eventually breaks down. I can’t compete with evolution. I can’t will it to stop, slow down. It does not hear. I cannot bear to lose the anchor, safe ground. I sob and sob until exhaustion sets in. I can’t help myself. Wrought with emotion. I overthink it. I think again, tricking the brain bad won’t happen. I can’t even come close. In this life I have loved many but only one burned constant, embers and ash. No matter, roles were bartered long ago. Overbearing, enveloping, tough, crazy mother love does not judge. It remains solid, no matter how deep the disappointment. She watches quietly, observing the ebb and flow. Waiting patiently to gather shattered, fallen pieces, dustbin in hand. What a sour burden to own something so precious, forced only to have to let it go. Her greatest gift, knowing precisely when to push and when to pull. That I understand. That, I know well. The incomparable fear of love and loss, one’s heart ripped straight through the middle. Embers and ash. The unbearable, unbreakable mother daughter bond so simple, so complicated.