Better

Her head would float among the high stalked flowers of the early-Autumn garden.  She would sit, as if in an arm chair, backed up against the railroad tie which stood on end like a flagpole.  Her prayer book opened in her lap, her knees “N’d” up to her chin or flapped down into a butterfly-release.  Hours.   And I would want to interrupt her. I would want to ask her when the holiday was to begin; when it was my turn to be involved.

I watched carefully through the window; might venture a silent walk-by – as if there was something “soooop-per” interesting to look at in the side yard or maybe an old bean to pick from the wilted-up Summer veggie patch.  But, whatever ritual this was, I knew not to cross the line.  A buttercup held  up under her chin, yellow fell forth at her feet.  The boundary was erected.  She was not to be disturbed. So I waited.

As a small one I thought this sort of magical – like my mother might be a fairy with angels’ wings.   As a twelve year old, I saw it as a psychological drama played out on a spiritual stage; or was it a spiritual drama played out on a psychological one?  Either way – the word barreled towards me as, “fake.” She put herself out to be viewed, looking for us to praise her for her prayers.  So hyperbolic and way too Heathers-of-Scotland dramatic, it was embarrassing for the twelve year old.

I never did know the words she read.  The Rosh Hashanah Machzor somehow privately stored.  Even in her house of wall-to-wall books, it made no appearance but for on her lap, in her hands, through her public meditations.  I could always find the pot pipe, why not the prayer book?  The pipe seemed hidden so as to be easily discovered.  The Machzor?  Not so much – more like hidden as if to never been found.   This was some kind of metaphoric-acrobatic flip, maybe meant more for her than for me, but it sure did seem like a message of importance.  What you find, you use.

Now my forty-seven year old self sits in Temple. I hold my own prayer book (having finally found one).   And the vivid images of my mother’s garden party makes me think about “better” – a better year, a better chance, maybe a better hold on the ups and downs of heart and mind, a better mood, love, life, lyric self.   Maybe she sat there, not reaching across to warmly embrace me with her sunshine, all in the name of better.

It was probably six or so years ago when I sat in a sundrenched office, two walls full of executive corner windows.  We were talking about change. He told me the story of a softball coach.  Every time a player hit, the coach said, “better.”  Not good, or great, or nice.   “Good is done.  Better is more to come.  It’s all about the better.”  And it left me wondering about that, never to be done, always to be better.  I look back now– not focusing on my aloneness in the shade, but rather on her sitting in the sun trying to be better.   Maybe those New Year’s rays of light flicking off of my mother warmed me.  Maybe even now, with the vividness of their memory, they could still.

That boss, who told me about better, had a scary, scary accident recently. His name must have been written in a vibrant, pulsing color in the book of life.  For so he sits now, resting, healing. Dog, and sun and loved ones around him, holding him as the year turns, and he begins again.  Better and Better.

©Gabriella Strecker, 2016

Image courtesy of Mishkan Hanefesh, Machzor for the Days of Awe, page 145