Mothers and Daughters

It is so easy to hold onto the pain of the past. I spin it into stories that are outrageous without embellishment, stories that I tell over and over again until they seem far removed from my actual life. The past becomes unreal and, then, I can find humor in it all. The laughter makes it bearable and turns the stinging memories into something soft and familiar. The memories give way to legends. Last night, snapping beans with my daughter, I suddenly remember sitting on a stoop snapping beans with my own mother. It is Kansas in late summer but the heat and humidity are broken by a slight breeze. We sit side by side, a bag of green beans between us and a pot between her feet. She is telling me a story from her past and throws her head back and laughs. She then turns to me with an open smile and I am transfixed. Her smile is true happiness and so rare that even now, 30 years later, I am undone. My good memories are not legendary - they are heartbreaking in their simplicity. I return to snapping beans with my own daughter. I watch her small hands, fingernails painted bright purple, struggling to break the ends from the beans. She works earnestly and asks, "Like this mama?" and I say, "Yes, exactly like that." I wonder if she will remember this...the expression on my face, our hands, and the way the light is coming through the kitchen window. We are creating her past together, right now, and there is no way to know how she will judge it later. The only thing that I know for sure is that I am the daughter of an imperfect mother and the imperfect mother of a daughter. I hope that, somehow, we both learn to hold onto the good.