“’So what new stuff are you going to plant in the garden, Mom?’ I ask.
‘Plant?’ Mom says. She looks out at the yard and shrugs.
‘How about if we make a list? Marcy said it was good for you to make lists and cross things off. When you first got home, you made lists.’ I stand up to go get some paper and a pencil. I want Mom thinking violets, daffodils, tulips, bright colors flashing in her brain.
‘Thinking about spring tires me out, Chirp,’ Mom says.
‘But in May we can pick lilacs!’ I say. ‘We love picking lilacs.’
Mom reaches for my hand. ‘Just sit with me, honey.’
I sit back down.
I need to stay patient with Mom, especially since her new psychiatrist just told her that he thinks her depression is chronic, which means it will never completely go away. She’s been depressed at different times in her life and will probably always struggle with it. That’s news she needed like a hole in the head just two weeks after gettting home.
Three black-capped chickadees play follow-the-leader around the rhododendron bush. I can’t tell if Mom’s watching them.
‘You don’t have to pick lilacs,’ I say. ‘You can just keep me company when I pick them.’
Mom puts her arm around me and squeezes tight. When I look at her face, tears are streaming down.
‘Listen, Chirpie,’ she says, brushing the tears away like they’re pesty no-see-ums. ‘I need to tell you something important, okay?’
‘You’re a really special girl. A beautiful, strong, special, special girl. You know that, right?’ She’s gripping my arm.
‘Good,’ she says. ‘It’s important.’ She lets go of my arm. She rests her hand on my knee. ‘When I was a girl, my mother loved to tell me what was wrong with me. I made no sense to her at all.’ Mom stares out at nothing. ‘Luftmensch.‘
‘It’s a Yiddish word. It means a dreamer. From my mother, the worst thing a person could be.’
‘But didn’t she like some things about you?’
Mom doesn’t answer for a long time. Finally she says, ‘My hair. My mother liked my hair.’
Wind whips across the yard. The grass shivers.
I touch Mom’s hair, but she doesn’t look at me.
‘She didn’t love me,’ Mom says quietly. ‘That’s just the simple, hard truth.’
A crow screeches, and all three chickadees take off into the air at the exact same time.
‘Wow!’ I say.
Please, Mom. Please, Mom. Notice.
‘Wow,’ Mom says, with a little smile.
We watch the chickadees until they disappear into the trees.
‘Lilacs are my favorite flower,’ Mom says.
‘I love them,’ I say
‘Me too,’ she says.
‘They smell so good.’
‘Like sweetness and light, Chirpie.’
I put my hand in Mom’s pocket. She reaches in and holds my hand. It’s sweetness and light, our hands together in her warm pocket.