There is a farm in Sweden that I am connected to, but only by DNA lines and story lines.
The old ones lived there, Anna and Hilmer. It was a sheep farm. Their farm had a guest cottage where my mother stayed when she visited. Anna would totter over to the guest cottage every morning balancing a serving tray to deliver a very pale breakfast of boiled potatoes and smoked fish and transparent cucumber slices. And strong black coffee.
Anna and Hilmer had a ritual they undertook every morning. They’d walk the lane to that certain place in the fence where certain sheep would inevitably have lodged their necks while trying to curl their tongues around the greener sweeter grass on the other side. Anna and Hilmer knew each sheep by name, and would oh so lovingly extract each jammed sheep from the fence, then pat them and send them on their way.
Anna and Hilmer are with me now in the newest and strangest phase of my mother journey. They are all gone, my darling girls. Independent and resourceful, talented and loving and funny times four, they have graced into their grown-up lives, chasing their dearest dreams with all the courage and fortitude I could have ever hoped they’d have on board by this time.
There are many other loving adults in their lives now, and these folks have sometimes seemed like a threat to me; competition for my daughters’ time and affection. I have dreamed bad dreams that others have become the preferred mother-figure to my girls, and that the most beautiful word in the world, “mom,” was no longer falling from my ears into my heart, but into someone else’s.
But I am Anna and Hilmer, I’ve discovered. Maybe they don’t spend Christmas with me, but when my daughters stumble into something difficult, or sorrowful, or frightening along the path, it turns out that I am the one who knows the just right words, can knit my arms into the just right hug, can silently attend their tears, and without words, let them know tears are the just right thing. Best of all, I am the keeper of our shared memories.
Mom, I thought he was the one, she wailed.
The surgery is next Thursday. Can you be there, Mom?
Why did this have to happen to me, Mom? How could God let this happen?
Mom, do you remember that boy who always teased me on the bus in elementary school?
Yes, I am Anna and Hilmer. And I will be at that certain spot in the fence for my little flock until my last breath. They know it, and I know it, and it’s a very dear place to be.
Terri Bocklund is a life long singer/songwriter and guitar picker, a world-class doodler and visual journaler, and a rabid knitter. She grew up in Minnesota and now lives and works in the suburban Baltimore/DC area.