The first time I showed her the painting of her dress we were at Barnes and Noble in St. Cloud. It was half the driving distance for each of us. Just an hour difference, but so necessary. This excitement that was bursting inside of me – a heart trying to contain a mass of butterflies – I just couldn’t hold back for that extra hour. And neither could she. We ordered our lattes. Found our table. And I ran out to the car and dragged the four foot painting inside. If people stared, it was probably due more to the butterflies than the painting. Our joy was palpable, and not to be contained.
When I walk up the stairs in our house, I pass her picture and there is a swelling, an ache, in my heart. I do yoga in the bedroom. The third pose turns my head toward her image on the dresser, and my there is my heart again. Sitting at my computer, typing these words, her dress hangs on the wall. My heart. For months after her passing, I would have called this pain. But it occurred to me this morning, sitting by her painting, I can still smell the coffee from the Starbuck’s counter at Barnes and Noble. It’s so strong, I’m waiting for the barista to call my name. I hear my mom’s laughter. Touch her purse with the side of my foot. Marvel at the crisp white of her blouse. As my heart sends those twinges, those heart swellings to my brain, I think this is not pain, these are the butterflies. This is love. This is joy.
I have been following the book bannings in the US — particularly one ruling in Florida – something about banning anything that made people “uncomfortable.” What a ridiculous notion. Not to mention impossible. I don’t want to live in that world. How would we learn anything? How would we grow? How would we even love? Yes, my heart may ache, but I wouldn’t trade that for the world. I want to feel the discomfort of every butterfly. The glorious discomfort of change, growth, of life itself. This is nothing to be feared — and I almost said “but embraced” here – but really, not even embraced, for butterflies as you know will never be contained. They can only be released.
I sit, books surrounding me. The scent of coffee in the air. The sound of my mother’s joy. This is love, I tell my heart, and run along in its flutter.