Posted - 02/13/2009 02:58am
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February 2009

Sonoma, California

When I awaken tomorrow my mother's home will no longer belong to her.  Never again is it to be a place where those of us who were part of its history can ever return with a claim of belonging.  As she sleeps in her bed tonight in the convalescent nursing residence, people I do not know are dreaming of a new life in the home that was my mother's for nearly forty years.  As she lets go, the new occupants begin their attachment to a place they'll now call home. 

When we are young we assume attachment to people, to places and to visions of who we imagine we will become.  As we age, we experience the poignancy of detachment each time we have to let go of a person, a place or a dream; yet before we can fully let go, we try to find a way of making it alright in the inevitable exchange of one dream for another.

My sister tells me that she plans to meet the new owners.  They are a young couple who teach school in the neighbourhood. They are raising two children and what is known so far is that they're all excited about their move to my mother's former home -- now their home.  My sister heard that they can't wait to get moved in.

My sister wants to tell them how it was for her growing up in this home.  She wants to share the collective memories that a family holds about a place where good news and bad was experienced time and time again over nearly forty years. She hopes they will be good stewards of this home and plans to share that hope with them.  She just needs to see who these people are for herself.  Mostly, I think, she wants to look them in the eyes and come to some silent acknowledgment that the home will be cared for during their stewardship.

I know that I won't go by that home again.  While the past is part of me, I choose not to dwell in it.  I live in the present moment so that I don't miss the train when it stops at my track.  I live in the present moment so that I don't become a historical relic stuck in a groove of embellished memories.  After all, memories and 10 cents won't even buy me a weakly brewed coffee today.  Who has time to listen, anyway?

My mother and I don't talk about her former home.  Every now and then she'll mention it and I listen.  Last weekend she spoke of the deck that we built some years ago; the one that has a full view of two apple trees; the one she spent countless hours on basking in the sun's rays a few minutes at a time.  There would usually be a newspaper strewn by the side of her chair as the various sections of it would have slowly slipped off her lap enroute to a catnap.  

She talks about the deck as I sit by her side watching her try to find comfort in the bed of this new home that is the convalescent nursing residence.  It is raining as I watch and listen.  She tells me that it is good that the couple is young, that their children are young and that they are teachers in the neighbourhood.  I agree.  They'll feel the warm welcome permeating the walls of their new home.  You see, she was a teacher in the neighbourhood once.  And her children were young then too. 

My mother is taking a catnap and as I listen to her breathing I drift off into my own reverie. My mother was a beauty when she was young. I thought she looked like Greta Garbo, but unlike Garbo hers was not a distant and unapproachable beauty. All the men wanted to be by her side and all the women wanted to be her. I know I did. Like picture postcards from far away places, scenes of our life together arrive to my mind's eye in this afternoon's post.  I swear I can clearly hear the voice of French singer Charles Aznavour singing....

    Yesterday when I was Young

    Yesterday when I was young

    The taste of life was sweet like rain upon my tongue,
    I teased at life as if it were a foolish game
    The way an evening breeze would tease a candle flame,
    The thousand dreams I dreamed, the splendid things I planned
    I always built to last on weak and shifting sand,
    I lived by night and shunned the naked light of day
    And only now I see how the years have run away,

    Yesterday when I was young
    There were so many songs that waited to be sung,
    So many wild pleasures that lay in store for me
    And so much pain my dazzled eyes refused to see,
    I ran so fast that time and youth at last ran out and
    I never stopped to think what life was all about,
    And every conversation that I can recall
    Concerned itself with me, and nothing else at all.

    Yesterday the moon was blue
    And every crazy day brought something new to do,
    And I used my magic age as if it were a wand
    And never saw the waste and emptiness beyond,
    The game of love I played with arrogance and pride
    And every flame I lit so quickly, quickly died
    The friends I made all seemed, somehow, to drift away
    And only I am left on stage to end the play.

    Yesterday when I was young
    There were so many songs that waited to be sung,
    So many wild pleasures lay in store for me
    And so much pain my dazzled eyes refused to see,
    There are so many songs in me that won't be sung
    Cause I feel the bitter taste of tears upon my tongue
    And the time has come for me to pay for yesterday
    When I was young.

I am awake tonight on this night of the full winter moon.  It is so quiet on this night of silvery sprays of moonlight onto the garden.  I think about the new occupants and their excitement in this new chapter to their still young story.  I think about my mother as she watches the birds and the squirrels eat the birdseed outside her patio door, while she struggles to move the water glass just a little bit closer to her this last chapter of her story. 


I think about my mother's wisdom and how she has exchanged one dream for another to make it alright.  I wonder how she reconciled the visions imagined in younger years about who she would become, with the reality of how it all really turned out. I think about all the unspoken understandings and silent agreements between us now. Both of us know that all the words have been spoken and this, from two women who said so much to one another over a lifetime together.  These unspoken understandings and silent agreements between us now give me the strength I need for what is yet to come.  And come it will, as surely as night follows day.


In the still of the night, I let all the dreams float by:  past, present and future. My dreams are like a shadow play with opaque figures against illuminated backgrounds.  As I see the past, the illumination is dimmed; in the present the light is vibrant and the colours so vivid; the future is dimly lit and I am in no hurry to reach it.



Add a Comment
Comment posted by Olga Menendez on 02/22/2009

Hi Anya,

It is wonderful that you can write about your feelings in the way you do.  It has to be cathartic. I have not yet gone by Mama's house to meet the new owners.  Maybe at some point... and then, maybe not.  Continue writing. You have Papa's gift.  I love you. Olga

Comment posted by Sally Stone on 02/24/2009


I thank you for sharing your deepest emotions involving your mother's transition and yours.  I finally am coming to feel the depths of my emotions in relationship to my parents who have both passed away. I appreciate the gentle and caring way you tell your helps me very much.  Thank you, Sally

Comment posted by Susan Waltz on 02/25/2009

Reading about your Mother and her home made me think about my Dad, who passed away 4 years ago. We had to move him out of his home of 60 years to an assisted living facility. We kept his home vacant until he passed away but now reading about the young family moving into your Mother's home sounds like such a wonderful new beginning for her home.  Susan

Comment posted by Kathy Skinner on 02/27/2009


How poignant, how true. What a beautiful sharing of your feelings. Your descriptions and thoughts move the reader to a place in the universe which is outside the blinders of day to day concerns.

Comment posted by Dorrie on 03/03/2009

What a beautiful and poignant story about your mother.  I love the vivid imagery in the last two paragraphs. It's so true about the unspoken words between two people who know and understand the truth without saying a word.  I would love to see a picture of your mother as a young woman.

Comment posted by Giovanna on 03/12/2009
Anya, this is so beautifully written, and so poignant. As I read, I'm reminded of those wonderful moments with Mamma; her wit and humor; laughter; lively kitchen table discussions; and unforgettable Russian Easter celebrations in Monterey. You capture the bittersweetness of those memories, and through your imagery I find myself sitting with you in Mamma's room listening to her every breath, and drifting off into my own reverie.
Comment posted by Barbara on 03/20/2009

Dear Anya,

You communicate with real presence - I feel like I know where you were on that day you spent with your mother. And your present words connect me with the past and future - my memories of my parents, who live in Michigan, and my hopes and fears about what will be.  Like light shining through a prism, your expression releases many different emotions.  Thank you for sharing yourself with us.  Barbara

Comment posted by serge davidenkoff on 03/26/2009

I like it....   Really great and provocative story.  You must read to mom.

Comment posted by maggie k. on 04/09/2009

Your writing is haunting and so evocative...I've read a few of your pieces and the synesthesia is mesmorizing...I feel the smoky, dusty atmosphere, feel the pull of the past and its powers, memories, and callings competing with the compelling need to also honor your present and who you are now.... Keep up your Atelier and they in the still of the night or early dawn. I love how you mingle in songs of an era to evoke a sense of time, place, and mood...from Charles A. to Roy ORbison.... XOXO, Maggie
Comment posted by judy ellis-omealey on 05/26/2010

I too have lost my mother.  My father died quickly in 2007.  My mother lingered in her sadness, dying of a broken heart. She and he had lived together since '51.  I can't imagine living with someone longer than you have not...I miss them both.  I am determined to remember them in their most vital moods; laughing, fighting, singing, crying.  Every now and then, the last images creep in and I must change the subject of my thoughts quickly.  I plan to lose those memories some day soon.