Light casts her ethereal glow shadows in early morning and I want to capture her like fireflies in jars. Put her on my windowsill to remember her hope when the clouds of mundane roll in and darkness hovers on the horizon.
Like the day Harrison and I sit bent over an IPod and phone passing time until his name calls for surgery. The appointment we didn’t plan for on his spring break.
I think about how this interruption will impact our day, how much time it will take away from other things, until the distraction of perspective walks through the door behind me. When two white collared EMT’s push a long gurney into the room holding a man lying flat on his back, cocooned in beige blanket.
His head wears snow halo on chocolate skin, breathing tube rests beneath his nose, and eyes fix target on the ceiling. I wonder why he is here alone in the office of a podiatrist.
My son keeps his eyes down on the game he holds in his hand. He’s about to have his toe cut on and just looking at this man, it makes him queasy.
A woman in a sheer red dress gets up, hobbles slow with cane across the room and stands over the frozen man. She leans in, right beside his face, and talks to him as if no one else exists in the room. His chestnut eyes, they roll to the side, meet hers and she teases him. “So you’re not going to talk to me today,” she laughs.
A burly man motions to her from where she was seated and pleads, “Grandma, come back and sit down.” She pretends she doesn’t hear him. Walks over to the row of chairs facing ours, sits down and smiles at me, waves her grandson over.
This kind of contented joy, it doesn’t usually present itself on the frame of worry.
We exchange smiling glances like a tennis match, so I ask her how long she and the man on the gurney have been married. The writer in me needs to know her story, how she can have this kind of peace when her husband lays there immobile. Before the calling of my son’s name echoes me back to reality.
“Fifty two years,” she says proud. Then she opens her jar of fireflies, and the gallery seated around the room hush in the glow of her story.
Esther tells me about her four kids, the one she lost to deep water in the inlet when she was seven. How she can’t go to the beach anymore because that day haunts her like living a bad dream awake.
She points to her grandson Steven, tells me she cared for him when he was two weeks old. And all the weeks following until he became an adult.
A few others know Esther as mother too. One with snowy white hair and another carrot topped. She says the family is still good to her but people raise their eyebrows when those kids introduce her as part of their family, now that they are grown up with children of their own who call her grandma.
And just when she starts to tell me about a time the family quietly accuses her of stealing a childs missing Easter dress, and I feel like Kathryn Stockett taking notes for The Help, the nurse stands with her clipboard in the open door and calls Harrison’s name.
I take Esther’s hand in mine and thank her. She tells me she wants my phone number and her grandson laughs. He’s heard this before. I tell him maybe I can take her out to lunch so I can hear more, because I’m sure she has enough stories to fill a book.
“You can take her to lunch, and she has hundreds of stories,” he smiles, “but she’ll come and pick you up.”
Today I captured the loving glow of wisdom and excavated joy let loose among the chairs of waiting.
We’re all fireflies with a story, waiting for the lid to be unscrewed in the ask, so our words can fly free and light up the room.