by Christie Luadzers
The thin, blank lines spread across the page, bringing more anxiety to her already jumbled mind. The bookstore had been a madhouse earlier this morning and at this age, a crowd is not what she preferred. It was not a swift decision either, for no journal deemed worthy of all she had to say. After humbling herself, she rummaged through each option and waded through the repeating waves of empty pages. She eventually settled on a delicately lined, mauve covered journal. With her purchase came a sense of timidity but drenched in heavy excitement. She thankfully left the busyness of the store and walked toward home. Her steps fell in time to the surrounding sounds of her street; normalcy had always been comforting.
She couldn’t quite remember why she wanted to do this. Unsure of the real driving force behind it, she questioned her sanity a bit, laughing at her silly intentions. After what seemed like months of contemplation, she had given in to the whim. The gentle nudges from the powers beyond maybe, or just her mind craving something to do, she was still a bit uncertain of her purpose. Either way, the journal now held space on her small table, next to her mid-morning mint tea. Freshly cut flowers christened it with their fragrances and she noticed how wonderfully the mauve cover matched the scene.
I must be crazy doing this now, she scorned inside her head, half tempted to rip the journal pages apart, as if that simple action would remove the doubts she felt. The sudden anger welling up inside for allowing her passion of writing to go extinct brought disgust and sadness. She missed her old friend, the joy it brought to see her readers’ commentary, her name in print… so long ago.
She had no regrets in her life besides this. The lengthy distance between the last words she had actually written ate at her happiness now. She was surely too old to be doing this too. The foolishness she felt even buying the damn thing in the first place was horrendous. Like a schoolgirl buying her first diary of sorts. Giddy with excitement to finally have time to explode ink all over those pages. Childish, ridiculous really.
A sip of hot mint on her tongue threw her back to a year ago, when they had their last morning tea together and said goodbye. It was one of those moments she didn’t realize it would be the last time, until it was.
The reason for her free time now.
That last goodbye.
Now, with her hours to herself she pondered whether she’d done anything of worth in the last year and thought about how often she still felt rushed. The urge to do something was so intense some days, and other days she couldn’t even remember the date. There had been so much wrapped up in her life, so many phases, her time had always been as stuffed as an overflowing suitcase.
Her gaze drifted to the bare cover as she gently ran her wrinkled hand over it. The softness was so pleasurable it seemed a welcoming change from the thorns and pricklies of her garden. Opening the cover with the tenderness of a rose petal, she focused on the bare sheets inside. Rubbing the pages between her fingers she imagined her pen gliding over each one, cascading her emotions she had trapped behind closed doors all these years. The trepidation of opening those hidden rooms inside herself stabbed her with a hint of guilt. Her heart banging inside her chest, a rhythm she had recently grown accustomed to, she remembered her most recent appointment.
“Ms. Dillings, you’re as healthy as a horse! You’re healthier than half the 30 year-olds that come in here. You should be traveling and seeing the world!” Her doctor was a young, vibrant blonde who did well stroking egos, however had no experience regarding life’s traumas. “I’d like to see you in a year, mostly just to hear of all the sights you’ve gone to see!” She bounced out the door with her low ponytail bobbing behind her, struggling to keep up the pace.
Oh, to be young again. She sighed as those words melted into her. They both knew she wasn’t going to travel. She knew where she belonged; she knew what needed to be done. Quietly preparing to leave the doctor’s office, she remembered that in youth, we only see opportunities. The appetite one has for adventure. We crave to be an important part of the world, thriving on independence, letting our voices be heard and priding ourselves on shock value. The energy, the hunger, and the trickery of feeling invincible. A smile gave way on her lips; she reminisced about her own most vibrant years in college.
As if silently beckoned, her pen quietly rolled against the journal. She snapped back to her table, realizing her visit to the doctor’s office had only been a memory. She acknowledged the pen with an endearing gaze. Her favorite high school graduation gift from her favorite writing teacher. Same sleek, black pen she held throughout college. A Cross ball-point pen that had guided her hand across numerous college essays and exams. This glorious thing even went to France with her, oh what a beautiful trip that had been! A close-knit friend that had outlasted those lessons, and all of those relationships. She clutched it once again; fitting it perfectly into the inside crevice of her ring finger. It was as splendid as it had always been, though her hand was much more antiquated now. Still, a match made in heaven she supposed. A minute piece of youth, carrying many memories.
Putting that pen to paper was much harder today though. Where to start, she pondered. Do I start with those early days or do I start now and work back? Who shall I write this for anyways, myself? As the questions flooded her, the pen began to tremble. She stared out the window for a moment trying desperately to release the stress building up. The birds feeding in her garden helped while she caressed the pen in her fingers.
Realizing that her sweetly chirping friends were low on food she stood and stretched, popping her joints as she went and gathered a cup of seed from the pantry. She could use a break right now. Standing at the glass door, she glanced back at her journal; it’ll be there when I get back in. I’ll get to it in just a moment.
The sunshine struck her face like a match igniting a fire. She couldn’t help but pause and bask in the beams. The aroma from her garden’s inhabitants filtered around her, satisfying a sweet craving she welcomed every morning. As her eyes adjusted to the change, a tiny bluebird hopped carefully closer, eyeing the cup of seed, anticipating the reward. She watched and wondered if this would finally be the day that she would gain the trust of the last baby to leave the nest. He chirped once and hopped closer, tilting his head as she dropped a few nuggets of seed. With his small beak he graciously pecked right near her clover-cushioned toes. As the little bird waited for more, she relived the day when her own last babe flew the nest, as they say.
It was a spring day, much like today she recalled. Her son had graduated the weekend before and excitedly spent his last week packing his room and organizing travel plans. The anticipation was suffocating those last days, his excitement met with Mom’s anguish. Though as not to trample on his frenzied butterflies, she stayed quiet and helpful, as a Mom typically does. She watched him as she now watched over the bluebird, with a steady hand and a heart waiting to be needed. She was surprised by a light tapping on her palm as the tiny bird delicately pecked the seed sprinkled there. She was so overwhelmed in her memories she hadn’t even noticed that he had flown into her hand. With such happiness exuding her, a tear trickled down her cheek. Her son had always giggled at her “happy tears” as he called them growing up. The tiny bird stayed in her palm for just a quick break and flew up to the branch that had once held his nest. A smile joined her tear. Maybe her son would visit his nest soon too, she sure could use a visit.
Moving back into her chair next to the table, she eyed the front door. You silly woman! Fixating on the door isn’t going to magically bring him here! Shaking her head at her own nonsense, she grabbed the journal and reclined back embracing it to her chest. The coolness calmed her aching heart and she allowed herself a minute of recovery from the river of memories. Closing her eyes, the journal lay unmoved.
She awoke from her unplanned slumber to the sound of the doorbell. Sitting up straight she realized it had grown dark outside and surely her little feathery friends were nestled away behind the leaves. She lifted the journal off of her chest and sat it on the table.
Straightening her blouse and pinching her cheeks to wake up, the door started unlatching. As she rose from the chair she watched her son come through, smiling from ear to ear. “We’re having dinner tonight right?” She embraced him as she had never before and wondered if she had somehow summoned him there. “Mom, you still have the strongest hugs! Did you think I would forget our date?”
She hesitated and looked in his eyes. She didn’t remember making these plans though this seemed to be happening a lot lately. Desperate not to show confusion, she rewarded his question with a simple smile and walked up the stairs to change. “I’ll be right down, honey. Just a few minutes to freshen up.”
Upstairs in the bathroom, she found the older version of herself reflecting back. She began to brainlessly work through her lifelong routine of brushing her hair, applying mascara and a tiny smudge of lip gloss. She always ended with a smiling goodbye to herself in the mirror. She had never needed much makeup and always enjoyed the fresh feeling of wind on her face. Though in this day and age, so many women felt the need to change their looks. She reminded herself that aging is better than the alternative and she still loved that wrinkled old face staring back at her, well most days she did anyway. Quickly changing into a long dress, she grabbed her sweater off the bedpost and stepped quickly but carefully down the carpeted stairs.
She found her son sitting at her table with the mauve colored journal. Seeing it in his grown, masculine hands gave way for an odd surrealness. He looked so much like his father just then, hair perfectly salt and peppered, jawline squared up. He seemed to be pretending to read something in it, always joking around this guy, another trait of his father’s.
“Mom! You never told me you went to France in college!” He exclaimed with surprise. Surely, I just told him that sometime through the years, hadn’t I?
“Oh, you’re such a jokester! I thought I might give writing my life story a little whirl, but it seems the day got away from me. Better luck tomorrow, right?” She fibbed a bit, not wanting to be honest about sleeping the day away. This sweet boy of hers always worried when she slept too much. His eyes lifted to meet hers and with a confused tone he asked her what she was talking about. “Mom, how long have you been working on this?”
Puzzled, she walked next to his chair and rested her hand across his shoulders. Leaning past him, she looked to see what he saw. Too much amazement, words were scattered all over the pages, flowing over each line in her very own handwriting. She snatched the book away from him hastily, questioning this as a joke at first. Glorious page after page was full of her exclamation marks, elaborate cursive and even a smiley face drawn here and there. As she delved further, she saw her memories rise up off the pages.
Each section, a picture formed in front of her. Childhood injuries and sleepovers, birthday balloons popped in her face. College days and parties, the cologne of her friends still lingering. Her wedding and marriage, her husband’s hands glided over her neck. Her motherhood and baby’s breath drifting across her bosom. The travels, the loves, her losses, her life continued to replay in her hands, from her journal. They were all right there, one by one, shining brightly as each page turned.
Obviously seeing his mother lost in her own writings, he rose from the chair and masked his sadness. He recognized her time slipping more and more. His heart grappled with the knowledge as he chose to ignore it for now, in this moment. He wrapped his mother up in his arms and hugged her gently. They both had tears staining his shirt, though he hid his much better.
Gaining composure, he said, “Mom with the everlasting happy tears!” Wiping her cheeks, he smiled as she looked at him, clutching the journal between them.
“Why don’t we enjoy a bite to eat Mom, and you can tell me all about this.”
Christie Luadzers is a 40-something year old wife and mom of two awesome boys. She’s grown up in Jefferson City, Missouri and now raises her family there. Her love for story-telling began the day she wrote her first alphabet letter. Christie currently works in an engineering firm assisting six civil engineers. In her free time, you can find her writing, and supporting all facets of art on her Facebook page Facebook.com/ChoBlu-927002727318480/.
She also contributes to ChoBlu.wordpress.com.