CLOAK OF GRATITUDE
CLOAK OF GRATITUDE
The autumn night air filled my room with the beauty of change and cooled me. Covering myself with the gold silk comforter from a beloved aunt, I was held in fluffy down while my foot took in the leafy breeze. The gold of my warmth was so deep that it seemed of the crimson family. Auntie had said it was handmade and from the old country. Under this mantle of comfort, the talks began.
She’d let herself in whispering, “Hi Mama”, closing the door softly. Sliding under the loving fabric, I would know that she had her own blanket clutched in her hand. Running it softly against her cheek, as she had always done, the moon shone on ‘blankie’ and it looked like a narrow flannel scarf with holes in it. The hunter moon picked up the gold flecks in her glorious green eyes. The talks would go on forever; sleep could wait.
“I don’t even like football”, she said. ” I don’t know why I go to those games, but everyone goes and nobody watches the game. They just watch each other and if they think you’re not cool enough, they get up and move. Janey and I sat together the whole time. I like her. I think we’ll be friends.”
I’d shift a little, waiting for more, loving her 16 year old voice. The talks started some time ago, years ago, with her sweet inquiries as to when Riley would be born. She’d say, “Wanna talk about Riley? Do you think I’ll be a good dog person? Do you think he’ll like me? “Oh, Mama, aren’t you just so excited?”
Kathryn was 10 years old when I thought a puppy, a ‘Golden Achiever’, her own made up breed, might help her get through the time of my cancer treatment. The little pup with “the cutest face I’ve ever seen in my life”, brought her the joy and the distraction I had hoped for. On some very dark nights, too hot for a comforter, but with blankie between us, the words would be softer. She would say into my hair, “Are they really, really, really sure that you’re going to be alright, mama?” I could smell her strawberry shampoo and could feel her eyes on my night-time shadow.
“I’m going to be just fine, honey, I have a lot to do and you and I have so much to do together, for years to come.”
On those nights, she’d come closer, skin touching, and fall asleep a little sooner. As a young teen, she counted on me to always be awake and ready to listen. And I was. The door would open and her sweet cherry lip gloss said, “Mama, you’re not going to believe this one.” She’d settle in and talk in breathless detail about this friend and that friend and who said what to whom, who was going out with what boy and who she thought she might like when she was ready to like boys. Those nights, even years after treatment were painful and exhausting, the cancer cured but the body spent.
The healing talks into the night got us both through. Tears found the lush comforter some nights, hers and mine. Her sobbing about a friend’s betrayal would bring her through the door in a quiet sweep, to my side of the bed, putting her head deep onto my chest. The tears of my girl were always in some darkened bedroom of her soul and she rarely opened that door but carefree puppy days were in the past and life gets hard sometimes.
Another summer night and the ocean came in, with her beautiful long golden salty locks, and we’d giggle our way into the night. She wore an ankle bracelet that said, “Be bold.” She’d stay, enjoying the cool of the noisy air conditioner on those saturated nights of humidity and the scent of my garden’s basil still on my fingertips. I awoke often, still with the reminders of what my body had been through, full of overwhelming gratitude for the sight of her hair all over the pillows, our cat curled at her legs, blankie in hand.
I missed her, those nights, so many of them, when she went off to college. Come Christmas vacation, we had our first blizzard. I rolled around in the comforter, listening to the howling wind and my heart leapt in my chest to hear the tap at the door.
“Are you still awake, Mama?”
I shifted under the cloak of gratitude, whispering a silent prayer of thanks to the spirit that brings us love like this and she climbed in, close again, us again.