Blinded by You

Blinded by you

It is blinding. The summer sunlight streams in through my small window, creating specks of light that dance in tune with the swaying trees.

I blink the haziness away and reach for my phone on my bedside table. Recognizing the time, I put my phone back down and roll over, facing my window. I try to fall back asleep, but the light fragments fascinate me. The bits of light continually move around the room, finding neither solace nor comfort in any given space. Almost expectedly, I hear slippers padding across the cold wood floors, and I know they are coming for me. I roll away from the window and face the door.

I watch as the knob turns, and voilà, my mother.

My mother has always been a person of extraordinary interest to me. My first original thought about  her, separate from the fact that she is my mother, was “she is beautiful.” As a young child, I found myself admiring her movements, entranced by her speech, and mirroring the way she engaged with others. Her long brown hair was usually woven into a braid that fell down her spine like a veil. My sister and I would trail behind her as if we were her little ducklings. I began to grasp my dependence on her the day she dropped me off for my first day of kindergarten . Every morning after that first day began with a brawl between my mother and me – I did not make school friends easily. She pleaded with me that school would become better, but through my tears I was persistent that  it would not. In truth, I did not want friends; I just wanted my mother. Eventually I gave in to the routine of school because I knew every day it would start and end with her. I soon realized that no one possesses the same heart as her.

Returning to the present, my mother gently opens my bedroom door. Keeping her body hidden behind it, only her head appears, making me smile at this silly sight. She quickly returns the smile, seeing that I am awake. Shifting her body from behind the door, my mother gleefully sashays into the room and fixes the shutters upwards, sanctioning more sunlight to seep into the now shared space. On cue, she asks me if I want to go on a walk with her around the neighborhood. And as usual, I respond, “yes”. Leaving my room, she tells me to meet her in ten. I do not respond, but she knows I will be there.

I was seven years old when I stopped crying. My mother was driving my sister and me home from school with an alternative rock station playing in the background. She was on the phone when  my sister said something to me. To this day, I cannot recall what was said, or who started what, but the puppies were unleashed, and my sister and I became both victim and culprit. In an attempt to stop my sister and me from fighting, my mother spun herself around and forcibly demanded silence. Terrified, we obeyed. But  my mother was not the only reason we were stunned into muteness. In that same instant, our minivan crashed into the bumper of the car in front of us. From there, my sister and I began to cry. My mother desperately rushed to stifle our cries by almost spitting, “If you don’t be quiet, they’ll take you away.” I am not sure if she meant to impose such purposeful fear into my mind that day, but it worked. From then on, I knew that I never wanted to be without her, so I stopped crying.

After sluggishly crawling out of bed, I quickly change and rummage through my room for tennis shoes. Once ready, I wait for her by the front door. Placing my hat on my head, I begin the act of tricking the dog into allowing me to put his leash on. Haphazardly attempted on my part, I give up the chase, and grab a treat from the kitchen to lure him into my trap. I come back to the front door to find the leash already on the dog with my mother standing close by. Of course, my mother, the dog whisperer. She smiles at me when she sees the food lying guiltily in my hand. “What a treat,” my mother exclaims as I toss the snack in the dogs direction.

And it really is a treat – these moments with her.

I was twelve and my fingers were not long enough. No matter how far I stretched them on the keys, I was not capable of producing the same tune and cadence as my mother. I used to love to play, and play, and play, with her close by, listening  in the kitchen. Then abruptly, my love for the piano vanished. One day I was practicing a song from one of my mother’s old lesson books, when my right pinky could not reach the last key to end the tune. I remember looking at my hands thinking, why? If my mother was  capable of performing this song, then why couldn’t I? Growing up, I have often been considered my mother’s “mini.” The realization that I was not exactly the same as her upset me, so I quit.

Despite the brightness of the day, the morning is still crisp and cool. My mother and I start the trek north, towards the top of the mountain. The hat helps shield the sun from my eyes, yet I still find myself blinking away the blurriness. My mother’s brown hair lightly taps her shoulders as we haul our way up the hill. She is confidently soundless at the beginning of our walks.Willfully giving me the reins to a choice of topic, which undoubtedly focuses on me. As I have come into womanhood, I have recognized more than just my mother’s external beauty. During these walks I have come to learn a great deal about my mother.

During my teenage years, shooting from my mouth were words that only she remembers. We were fighting. We were having a fight. We were having a fight about – nothing. I wanted to stay out later; I wanted to sleep over at my friend’s; I wanted to skip track practice. The excessive “I want, I want, I want” spewing from my mouth shocked my mother. I saw her look at me differently, so I looked at her differently, too. The pressure of satisfying my mother became overwhelming.

So I yelled, I slammed, and I pushed; yet, despite this, she murmured, she knocked, and she pulled.

Shards of light break through the tall trees distracting me, as my mother travels ahead. Catching up, I ask about her. I want to hear about her classroom, her students, her teacher friends. I love that my mother loves teaching. It is not necessarily the act of teaching, more so, the response she generates from her students. Every end of the school year, I ask her feelings toward the last class she taught, and she always responds the same: “My favorite class yet!” The sincerity in her expression is gripping.

My mother once wrote to me, mentioning that the door to my room remains closed when I am away at school. She confessed the emptiness swept her into the past. Truthfully, the older I become, the less my room back home feels like mine. Distance has given my mother’s and my relationship a chance to breathe. I have always known  my affection toward her; I just never understood how important it was to me until I moved away. The day she left me at school was frightening. It felt like kindergarten all over again, except this time, she was not coming back. She hugged me. I remember she was wearing yellow, like the sun. Warmth radiated from her into my person, a warmth that still envelops me.

Four hundred and twenty-two miles apart; I know the distance, but I do not feel it.  

We are finally back to the house and the sun beats heavy on my back. I move inside, while my mother stays out with the dog a little longer, enjoying the day. Back in my bedroom, I lie down and breathe. Even though it is exhausting, I love visiting for the summers. My mother takes full advantage of this time with me, and I relish in it. I am awash in her goodness, her friendship. Suddenly, a sliver of light strikes my eye, and I am tuned to it. I notice how the light inside dances in harmony with my mother outside. I continue to focus on the light, my mother, and then the light again. The two figures become foggy, and the sensation is blinding.  

Author: Olivia Keogh | @liv_keogh