On the morning of my high school graduation, a strand of pearls sounded like a maraka, as I drew them from the box. Her note read: “There used to be a tradition in my family that when girls graduate from high school, they get a string of beads. Well, the beads of my beads never came. “
This is because my mother, who was bound for adventure, gave up her senior year, and when she finished business school, she herself bought these pearls. She wanted me to know that there is more than one way to walk in the world, and I deserve to celebrate. I wore pearls that afternoon when I crossed the football field to accept my diploma.
From year to year, my mother stepped forward in time to meet me, always under the guise of a small package with pink ribbon and a little white notecard: “Happy 15th!” “Happy 16th!” “Congratulations on your driving license!” “You’re a college girl!” “Happy 21st!” “Happy birthday, sweet girl! Love, your mother.”
Every time I opened the box, I could, for a short time, live in a shared reality that he had imagined for us years ago. It was like a half-hearted scent, the first vowel of a familiar song, each time, a small glimpse of it.
When I was a kid, opening the next package felt like a treasure hunt. As I grew older, it began to feel something more fundamental, like air or community, like prayer. I received his messages like a guidepost in a dark forest; If his words could not tell the way, at least he gave comfort to know that someone had been there before.
A decade after losing her mother, my father suddenly gave chase. He had spent years preparing to get out, but with him I blinked the eyelids, and off he went. On the morning of their memorial, Box looked back at me and said nothing. There was no letter for this.