James Anthony Ellis
Editor, Legacy Magazine
It was the summer of 1981. A really hot summer. The kind that you can still recall from the memories that linger in the back of the mind. The long bike rides. Sweat. The smell of asphalt. The heavy yet calm air.
And then one memory of my mother.
She simply said, “If you ever want to talk about what’s going on with you, you can talk to me.”
It’s one of those moments that etch a sweet place in the mind forever.
I was 17, that tender age when any sort of negative experience regarding the opposite gender could be devastating. But this devastation was taken to new limits. In my heart anyway.
You see, I really liked Isabel. She was a foreign exchange student who said that she could see the true me, and that I was different than others she had met. I was “special” to her.
Since “specialness,” young love and foreign exchange students don’t stick around forever, there came a time when I had to say goodbye to Isabel. For this youthful, innocent heart, it was the hardest thing to do. I was heartbroken.
And so – as 17-year-olds may tend to do – I moped. I took moping to a whole new level. Dragging my feet, being silent, showing very little initiative for anything. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I would follow my mom around, hoping perhaps that she would notice my heartbreak and do something about it. We weren’t the most expressive family, and we rarely talked about emotions. In fact, I used to think crying merely meant your head pounded and your throat felt all constrained, hot and burning.
This, mostly because I would hold my breath from the desire to squelch the tears.
But on this certain summer day, as my mom attended to some task about the house, I would find myself following her around, saying nothing. As she took care of some laundry or the like in her room, I simply climbed up onto the end of the bed and just laid there.
And then more silent.
Hoping to be noticed.
And then she said it. “If you ever want to talk about what’s going on with you, you can talk to me.”
A breath. A subtle nod. And when I made my way back into my room, tears.
An opened door. It’s what I needed. The permission to be human, to be hurting, to be heard.
I believe I needed the door to be opened more than I needed to walk through it. It would take years before I truly surrendered to the emotions that were residing and ever-hiding below the surface.
But my mother opened that door, as mothers do. Allowing me in, and allowing me to open up.
Here is to all the mothers who nurture their young, giving an unconditional love that sweetly invites the heart to come out – to be seen, heard and experienced.