Was there a garden or was the garden a dream? – Jorge Luis Borges (Adam Cast Forth)
My mother skypes me in the morning (my morning, her night), and fills me in on the hummingbirds who’ve flown into her house and act like its theirs, her garden and its beauties, the concerts or shows she’s been to, the latest Jamaican political news/scandal, her latest writing projects, and how hot it is in Kingston. A few days ago, when she was talking about the “pleasant” heat, and the sweat beading on her forehead, I said something to her that I’ve never in all my years said, not even as a teenager when it was always on the tip of my tongue (and thankfully stayed there),—“Mummy, shut up.”
However today, her aim wasn’t to torture me with the glorious sunshine and heat that she’s reveling under, but to share stories on love. When she starts to talk about the past, it’s when I’m most attentive. She didn’t say, “Let’s talk about love,” but she did start talking about one of her favorite subjects, her father. I never met my grandfather DJ, as he died decades before I was an egg/sperm cocktail; but when my mother shares stories of her childhood and her father, I think of how love lasts; I think of how the smallest acts of true love never leave us.
It’s amazing how one’s life can boil down to a few often repeated stories—the ones we choose to remember, the ones we can’t let go or the ones we choose to relate. This morning, my mother told me (again) the story of my grandfather bringing home treats for her, her sisters and brother. This isn’t my story to tell (maybe), but I will anyway… He didn’t have much money, due to life circumstances, but on Wednesdays, he would bring a small carton of ice-cream home for his four children to share. A little ice-cream may seem insignificant for those of us who have so much, but for his children, it was an incredible joy. At nine or ten, to my mother, that vanilla ice-cream may have been just a wonderful delight (“Yay, ice-cream!”), but as an adult looking back, that ice-cream was more than just milk and sugar. It was pure love. He brought what he could, sometimes it was a bag of yellow plums, sometimes a bag of cane… sometimes, it was as simple as sharing rice from his dinner plate.
In February, where romantic love is pushed like crack on an urban street corner, I can’t help but think of love in all its manifestations. I’m not in love, so I’m thinking of those I love/loved in a non-romantic sense, how much I’ve been loved and how love never leaves. I’m thinking of laps that were always open and waiting for me to lie in, arms that held me, broad backs that I piggy-backed on, shoulders that I swung on, dinners that were kept warm after a long day, patient ears and minds that listened, and special trips for ice-cream on Sundays.
It’s much to have loved, to have known true joy,
To have had– if only for just one day–
The experience of touching the living Garden. – Jorge Luis Borges (Adam Cast Forth)
p.s For my mother: