Sitting on a tall wooden stool, I watched my mother across the kitchen counter. My legs dangling and wiggling impatiently. Her giving the pan time to get hot. She held her fingers under cold running water, then clasped fingertips together before thrusting them apart once, a few drops sprinkled over the pan. Water sizzled at first contact, and the oil was ready for frying onions. Me, for all the minutes before, asking endlessly, Is it ready yet? Can you fry them yet?
No. Not yet.
You'll see. I'll show you. Poof with the hand, like it was a magic trick. My eyes growing big and happy each time.
I can smell the smell of frying yellow onions. Like caramel if it was savory and not sweet. I can conjure it at any moment the way I think sometimes I can conjure her. Or the smell of lily of the valley perfume, which is as good as her, if it isn't the same.
Day of beginnings. This is the day, two years ago, on which she died. Shifted our lives. Lives of the family that I love. Into new roles. New ways of seeing one another. New ways of comforting and loving and missing and sharing and remembering.
This is the day on which my life turns a new path, both feet marching in one direction. A shuttle ride onto campus. My first time standing before a classroom of 200 college sophomores to be their professor's assistant. Tomorrow, my own classes. Life of a writer commences. Or had it already? It is my mother's mandate, is what I think, to reorder my life.
All those evenings working over a hot stove. Telling her talents with the flick of her fingers. Occasionally wishing, tired from the day as she cooked, God, please let this child learn my example of quiet. Years later, maybe wishing the reverse, that I was still that tiny chattering girl asking question after question after question, impressed by small wonders and the magic bigness that was my mother.
I've been remembering her. Feeling grateful that I sense her presence in my life at every turn. Today is not a day for sadness, though I cannot help feeling sad for her absence - for the way, when I want to touch her skin, I feel the air. But here is the day to remember and begin and remember and begin, remember and begin.
We loved. Still we love her.
SONG: Country Roads, John Denver