Full Circle

I came home to Trinidad last Thursday. The old lady, was celebrating here 88th birthday. It was a familiar feeling being in the place that was my home for 16 years of my life, yet I couldn’t help feeling like I was a stranger. There was the familiar sound of her stealthy steps gliding down the corridor – she still gets up before everyone else – but now they’re much slower. Then without missing a beat, the habitual rustling in her kitchen, as she is prepping her morning tea. After a few moments, she is outside to her plants to begin watering before the sun even peeps over the horizon.

Gone is the vigor of frenzied activity, Covid did a number on her. Now it’s a much more methodical approach to her day, ensuring she gets everything done on time. The hearing aid is a nuisance, her eyesight is no longer what it was, and there were more “nap times” in her schedule. Her sentences are no longer the rich, powerful, unbroken chains of concise words, and she is always pausing to gather her thoughts. She has a slight stoop, and she would occasionally hold on to the wall to steady herself. This is a new version of my mother.

When I was a child, most evenings she would read stories for me, or simply tell me one. Her story telling has clearly influenced a lot of my creativity. On Friday, she admitted that since her eyesight has faded, she has been unable to read any of my short stories. I offered to read for her when she had the time.

With an eagerness I had not anticipated, she dropped everything she was doing, and curled up on the sofa next to me. I read, a poor attempt to mimic her style from 40 odd years ago. Her eyes were full of wonder, never once interrupting me. Every time I would pause to see if she was listening, I’d encounter the most attentive stare, and the broadest smile. I read for her over the course of several hours, only taking a break if her phone rang, or she needed to stretch her legs.

It was the greatest honor of my life. To read to the woman who has fueled my imagination from the beginning. There was even a question and answer session, not one detail escaped her in my stories. Her mind is still as sharp as ever. With the most gentle tact, she suggested improvements, tweaks to my characters that gave them a much richer personality, and gave instantaneous reviews. I felt obliged to take notes. What is remarkable, is that my mother has no formal training in the art, and was forced to abandon her schooling at the age of 14.

When I was finished, she returned to her kitchen, her collection of fresh herbs and spices arranged in the table in front of her as she began to process her own homemade seasonings. I was sent to fetch a small pouch from her room, then she invited me over to join her at the table. The pouch had several of my clumsily written stories from when I was about 8 or 9 years of age.

“You are becoming what you’ve always wanted to be. I am very proud of you.” She said, as she unfolded her private collection of my feeble beginnings.

Then with all the skill of a seasoned narrator, she closed her eyes and recited from memory a story meant to encourage and to uplift. I was still impressed, attentive, and humbled by her ability. I still have a long way to go.

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October 2022
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