From a 3rd Period Notebook entry I wrote during Writing Time with my students..
It’s late at night, the dishes are washed, the counter’s finally clean and I notice the solitary hunk of stone sitting in the center, waiting to be picked up. At first glance, I thought it was a potato, but when I touch it and feel it’s heft, I smile. The smile turns to levity when I realize it’s a rock in the shape of a heart. It’s almost a spiritual experience..
“Who’s is this?” I call from the kitchen.
“The rock? Oh, I found that,” the 22-year-old replies from his room. All these years and the kids still collects rocks. He’s learned well from his momma.
“It’s mine, now!” I tell him. “…’cause it reminds me of Granma.. and it’s in the shape of a heart.”
My son squeaks out into the living room in his pajamas. It’s not so much that he wants to see the rock.. He wants to hear the story..
My mom didn’t talk about love much when I was growing up.
The only time she did was after Mom and Dad had an argument. The moment Dad would storm out the door with his guitar to drink and sing the night away with, she’d turn to me, saying “don’t marry a man like this. You want someone to love.”
Actually, I don’t know how accurate that is, because I don’t even recall the word “love” escaping from her lips and tied to a noun, pronoun, or even a Proper Noun in a single sentence. .. until I grew up and met my husband.
That’s when she’d tease us and say “puro love! puro love!” She’d purse her lips, twitch her eyebrows, and jab the air with her index finger, pointing to the ceiling. This was her wink-wink-way of letting us know she knew we were intimate. This wasn’t perversion. It was her way of speaking of love-making in the puritanical world I grew up in. She knew my husband and I loved one another — our story played out in front of her.
Other than this, no mention of love. Hugs and kisses for sure, but I don’t remember any talks, any soothing recollections passed down from the family.. nothing.
There were only her rocks.
I must have been in my early 20s when I finally realized her rock collection meant more to her than memorializing a little trip or event in her life.
We’d be walking in the back yard, moving her water hose from one tree to another or weeding one of her plants when she’d pause for a moment and double over – entirely at the hip. For a woman her age, I thought she was keeling over.
“Ma, what are you doing?”
“I’m getting a rock.”
She’d hold up her little find — a brown stone no larger than the dip in the middle of her palm.
“.. Ma, it’s a brown rock.”
Another moment to cast a knowing glance to her know-it-all daughter. “You don’t see it?”
“No. What is it? What do you see?” With my mother, any moment could become a mystical encounter. Tea leaves, curanderas, fire walks were the norm then.
“It’s a heart.”
I stood in silence, waiting for her to reveal what she knew. Mom always knew.
“When I see these, I think God’s trying to tell me something. I think he loves me.”
Religion reigned through punishment in my family, doled out by my punishing father for a punishing God. Dad was the authority in the realm and spoke nonstop about it — not Mom.
She never mentioned God, either. Her silence on both faith and love was a sound rejection of my Dad and his belief, so it’s no surprise she found God’s love hidden in the castaway pebble that could be so easily overlooked by those who refused to see.
Her simple, profound statements echo through time and speak more to me than any dogma my father interpreted and tried to pummel in our souls during those years.
Today, I have yet to enter my mother’s house and find her rock collection that I know is hidden away somewhere, like her faith, her love, and that brief moment I witnessed my mother encounter God’s simple love.