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by Mia Janaé Gray 11 months ago in immediate family

A hope restored

Cover Artwork by: Mia J. Gray (Photo Source Canva Premium)

The sun is peering through the curtains as the smell of bacon drifts through the air. Squinting the sleep from my eyes I roll over, not ready to leave the warmth of my blankets. I can hear the pitter-patter of a busy kitchen below me as I struggle to hang on to the memory of last night's dream.

I try to write them down when I can remember them, but they seem to leave me as soon as I wake up. Hurriedly, I jot down the remnants of my dream in a small scratchpad I keep on my nightstand, hoping to make sense of it later.

𝒃𝒊𝒈 𝒕𝒓𝒆𝒆, 𝒘𝒉𝒊𝒕𝒆 𝒅𝒐𝒗𝒆𝒔

I throw on my fuzziest slippers and head downstairs.

Father is making breakfast and Mother is at the table, coffee in one hand and a book in the other. She hears me come in and looks up with a smile, "Any good dreams last night?"

I love when she asks, but I can't help but feel discouraged. "I know the dream was good," I said, "but I don't remember it all, and what I do remember doesn't make sense."

She grinned. "Suzie," she says, "there is nothing wrong with not remembering your whole dream. Sometimes we only remember what we need to remember, and that's okay."

Not entirely content with this response, I ask, "Well, how can I remember more? You make it seem so easy."

"Suzie," she replied, "It has taken time, but with consistent writing, I've brought myself to a place of better memory." She could sense my frustration rising so she placed her hand on my cheek, "How about we start by getting you a journal of your very own?"

This really excited me! I have kept notebooks in the past, but nothing quite like my Mom's journals. Hers are sleek, leather-bound journals with a strap to close and a loop to keep a pen in.

Oh, how I was looking forward to picking out a new journal!

"Well, go get dressed," she smiles. "We'll head to the market after breakfast."

The Goldendale markets were always bustling with the sound of music and good conversation. The smell of the fresh citrus and espresso always lingering around every fruit stand and coffee bar.

My mother seemed to float through the crowd. Like a butterfly stopping briefly at one booth then fluttering to another, always stopping long enough to smile at the vendor and compliment their work. I sure do love that about her.

Near the east end of the market is a small bookstore tucked away with an entrance almost overgrown with climbing vines on either side. This was my mother's favorite place.

The owner, Gino Florelli, a plump older gentleman, greets us with a big smile buried under his peppered beard. 'Ah, my favorite customer!" he exclaims, "I've set these books aside special for you."

I'm positive my mother's book habit is what keeps this place open. "Gino, you know me too well." Mother replied, "But today we're here for Miss Suzie. She will be 13 soon and it's time for her to have her first journal."

With a twinkle in his eye, he lifted a large rectangular box from under the glass countertop. He removed the covering to reveal seven different journals in various sizes and colors.

This was a big decision for me because I knew this journal was a new companion. It would be privy to my thoughts, emotions, and most importantly my dreams.

With a reassuring nod from my mother, I stepped forward, peering over the glass countertop into what felt like a new adventure.

After a moment I was certain I wanted the journal in the center. Deep burgundy, leather-bound with a gold inlay on the spine that read, "For the heart that wanders."

Looking up at Mom, I could tell her heart was bursting. "Suzie, what a wonderful choice! Let's pick out your pen."

Content with my decision I picked up the matching pen to go with it. Burgundy seemed to be the color that spoke loudest to my heart. After choosing my pen, eager to go home to crack it open, I placed my new treasures in my tote and headed toward the door.

I noticed my mother stay back to chat with Gino, and it looked like she bought a journal of her own. I didn't understand why she wouldn't include me in her choice but steeped in anticipation I charged ahead as a girl with a journal of her very own.

That evening I tidied my desk before introducing my journal to its surface. After the loose papers were sorted and the pencil shavings were swept away, I placed my burgundy companion with its matching pen in the center of my desk.

I took a deep breath, followed by a moment of reflection. At this moment I was overcome with gratefulness.

I am grateful for a mother who fuels my passions. I thought to myself.

Just then I heard a knock at my door. "I brought you a cup of tea with a blanket fresh from the dryer," Mother said joyously, "I know how much you love a cup of tea before you begin to write."

She seemed to always know what I needed before I did. I sure do love that about her!

"Thank you, Mama," I said, "Do you think you'll journal tonight too?" She grinned, "Tonight will be a long night of journaling for me, but you be sure to get some rest. After all, it's the dreams we're after." With a kiss on my forehead, she was off to her own writing adventure.

Nuzzled under the soft, freshly warmed blanket, holding my cup of tea in both hands, I took a couple of slow sips. Setting my cup aside I removed the leather strap. With the stiff creek of a freshly bound spine, my journal was now open.

After dating the page on the top left corner, as I've seen my Mother often do, I began.

The ink from the pen seemed to melt into the paper with every stroke. My mind became lighter with every word placed on the page. My heart reached new heights as I spilled out my worries, fears, and doubts. Feeling as if what I wrote was finally giving rest to my soul, making room for peace and most importantly my dreams.

With blinking eyes struggling to keep awake, I signed the page, "Suzie", with a single heart beside it.

The next morning, I sprung out of bed. I remembered my dream. I ran down the stairs and into the kitchen, almost sliding across the floor when my socks hit the linoleum.

To my surprise, Dad was already seated, and Mom wasn't reading her usual book. Her face looked a bit puffy like she'd been crying. With watery eyes, my father looked up and said, "Good morning, sweet girl. Come sit with us."

I could feel that something wasn't right. Mother seemed as if she was still fighting tears. "Sweetheart, we need to tell you something," I'm beginning to feel uneasy, "Your father and I have been discussing when would be the best time to tell you, but after journaling last night, we have decided that the sooner the better." Mother looked at Father as if she couldn't say it.

I felt my stomach begin to sink.

He began, "Suzie, your Mother is very sick." Fighting my urge to interrupt I felt my throat crackle and my face get hot. Surely the tears would begin to flow any moment. He continued, "We received news from the doctor, and your Mother has Stage 4 Lymphatic Breast Cancer."

My world is spinning, "How can this be, Mama?" I exclaimed, "you look so healthy! I don't understand. It just doesn't make sense!" My mother embraced me. As I cried into her chest, she began to run her fingers through my hair.

Overwhelmed with emotion my Father wrapped us up in his strong arms and we cried together, no one wanting to let go because once we let go, our harsh reality would begin to settle.

Clearing her throat and wiping away the tears, my Mother began again, "Now, Suzie. There is still hope," she smiled. "We may not know the length of time we have together on this earth, but our dreams are eternal. Let us focus on our dreams." At this moment, I knew she was right, but how could I see that now? This illness sought to take my Mother, and my dreams felt like they ceased to matter.

The next few months felt like a blur. I started the 8th grade, but couldn't focus on anything. As my Mother's illness progressed, she became less able to leave the house. Each day after school I'd crawl into her bed and she'd read to me until one day she became too weak to do even that.

One afternoon I arrived home and I knew something wasn't right. My father was standing in the kitchen silently weeping. He turned to greet me and with one look I knew. "Mama's gone isn't she?" He tried to reach for me, but I was already running to her room. I flung the door open and she was nowhere to be found.

All that remained was a little black notebook in her place.

I ran to the bed and clutched the notebook to my chest, hoping to grasp even a piece of her presence from its touch. I examined the notebook through tears, and I saw that this was the journal she had purchased the day we bought mine. This was the black leather journal with a spine that read, "For the heart that hopes."

Remembering that day with a pain in my chest I opened the journal.

"Dearest Suzie," it read, "I've written this journal to be your companion when I am gone and to help you through these emotions, but most importantly to restore your hope."

I heard a soft knock at the door. For a moment my heart flickered, remembering my Mother's soft knock followed by a cup of tea, only this time it was my Father. In his hand, he brought a cup of tea for both of us with a fresh blanket draped over his arm.

I invited him to sit with me and we began reading through the pages.

My Mother's handwriting gave me a peace I didn't understand. I couldn't see her but I knew she was with me. I clung to every stroke of the pen with my hope returning after every sentence.

Upon reaching the final page, it read:

"Dearest Suzie, I hope that by now you know that I am always here, looking after you in every way and accounting for every mistake. Be bold, dear Suzie. Fear nothing and be passionate in all you do. I love you, my sweet girl. When you feel ready please ask your Father for the little black box."

Looking up at my Father, I asked him to show me the little black box my Mother wrote about. He reached under the bed and pulled out a delicate box graced with a painting of a large oak tree and two white doves on its lid.

My dream.

I opened the box to see an envelope and a small note that read, "To fuel your every passion. Love, Mom"

Gently unsealing the envelope to find a check made out to me in the amount of $20,000. I looked up at my Father with amazement.

"She left all of this for me?" With a slight grin, he nodded his head in agreement.

My mother truly did think of everything. Even in her absence, she is continually present, never letting me forget my passions or stray too far from my dreams. She has given me my greatest gift, a gift of everlasting hope.

I sure do love that about my Mother!

immediate family

Mia Janaé Gray

Discovering my voice one leap of faith at a time. ☼

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