As a mom to three kids, I do a lot of going in and out of my house. Each time I go to meet a bus, or get into my mom-mobile, I revisit a piece of my childhood and one of my most treasured possessions…my quartz rock.
The rock sits among shrubs from our home’s previous owners and some flowers and perennials I’ve planted. About a foot long, the rock blends in with its surroundings. It also stands out as something unique. Just like it did when it was in my mother’s garden. First in the house we lived in until I was nine and then at the house my parents remain in today.
As a young girl, I loved sitting outside and daydreaming among the flowers my mother carefully tended. I could spend a whole day spinning stories about the rock. One day it could be a rare diamond that needed to be recovered in order to save a beautiful princess. Another day it could be a magic crystal that held the secrets of the world.
When I got a bit older, I could appreciate the rock for it’s own natural beauty. The way it sparkled when the sprinkler would hit it, or how it would catch the sunlight and throw off a rainbow.
I was never really clear how my mom came into possession of the unusual stone. As a child I loved to think of all the mysterious ways it could have come to reside in our little suburban home. Years later, I learned my mother’s uncle found it on his travels and gave it to my grandmother, who then gave it to mom.
I can still picture my mom weeding and planting her little rock garden in the front of our first house. Neighbors would stop by and chat with her, telling her the latest news or gossip. Many people commented on the unusual quartz.
She was so young and beautiful. I loved to talk to her whenever she was gardening. My mom was always on the run with many obligations, PTA president, ambulance corps volunteer, church obligations, or helping a friend. I had a lot of competition for her time. I loved that for the time she was in her garden, she could be mine. I would sing to her or just chat about my day.
When we moved, the rock went with us. I would see it in the new garden and take comfort that at least something was the same.
I wonder what my children will use as their touchstone to me as they grow older. Will my rock have some significance to them? Or will they remember me obsessively going over the rose bushes and getting mad at any aphids nervy enough to eat my flowers?
Will the sight of a book I read to them return them to a happy time? Will they remember the silly voices I used to make the book’s characters come alive? Or the songs I sang to them when I rocked them to sleep?
Will the sound of fingers on a keyboard remind them of me sitting in my office working on my blog? Will they remember sitting on my bed, watching TV, arguing with each other until I yelled, “For the love of all that is holy, knock it off.”
What will comfort my children when I no longer can?
My Aunt Fran, my mother’s sister, died almost a year ago. The thought of her passing has me feeling one step closer to the day my mom will no longer be there to watch my kids, or share the latest gossip over a cup of coffee.
A few weeks ago, my old roommate lost her battle with cancer. Her death made me want to cling to my own children a bit tighter and beg God to not take me until they’re all collecting social security.
As much as I hate to think about it, life is uncertain. We don’t know what will happen one day to the next. For today I’m grateful for my rock and the sweet memories of my mother that it holds for me, and I will be mindful to make sure I’m creating the touchstones that will bring my own children comfort when I no longer can.
*A version of this essay was first published on the Dishwasher. May 29, 2011 under the title, Touchstones. It has been updated from the original.