Monday, May 16, 2011

Encouragement for Mothers and Daughters

by Naomi Rawlings

I wrote this piece a few months ago. It's based on a true story. Yes, it's a little longer than my usual post length, but I trust you enjoy it.

Hidden Treasures
Being grownup isn’t always fun. My nine-year-old brain came to that realization on a crisp spring morning as I shrank deeper into my coat and hunched my back against the wind.
Before today, I had never been allowed on one of Grandma and Mom’s walks.
“It’s too far.”
“You’re not old enough.”
“You’ll be bored.”
The refusals varied little. I had begged to come today, certain some secret of womanhood would be revealed on the walks Mom took with Grandma whenever we came to visit.
After two minutes, I understood what the walks were about. Gossip.
Grandma’s voice prattled endlessly. “Now this man here goes to Florida every winter, and the man in the house up ahead lost his wife last summer. She’d had cancer and—”
“Can we turn around?” I shivered, gooseflesh creeping over my arms.
“I walk down to the road and back every day.” Grandma didn’t glance at me, just pumped her arms harder and launched into the life story of the widow who lived in the little white cottage to our left.
I stared down the long, straight road, barely able to discern where a second road teed into it. “That’s too far!”
My mom sent me a look, the kind of mother-daughter look that expresses a conversation in a fraction of a second. This one said, Naomi, I warned you it would be a long walk. We don’t see Grandma and Grandpa that often. Enjoy this time, and don’t be disrespectful.
I turned my head so Mom wouldn’t see me roll my eyes. “Can we at least slow down? My legs hurt.”
“Got to keep moving. Good exercise.”
I glared at Grandma. Why had I wanted to even come on this endless walk? So what if my younger brother and sister were still too little to join us? So what if this was the first time I’d seen Grandma since Christmas? Better to be fishing with Grandpa.
I stared at the ground, watching my scuffed tennis shoes stumble over dirt on the shoulder of the chipped road. A reddish rock caught my attention. I kicked it, stopped, then stooped to pick it up.
“Naomi, quit dawdling!”
Rock in hand, I raced ahead to Mom. “I got a rock, see.” I held it out for inspection then stuffed it in my pocket.
“Now these people here raise puppies.” Grandma gestured toward a yard with a little fenced square containing two doghouses. But no pups greeted us as we passed.
My gaze drifted back to the ground. Something shiny glinted despite the overcast sky. I crouched beside it and dug in the dirt where it was wedged.
“Naomi! Don’t make me call you again!”
“Mom, wait. I found something.” I freed a gold band from the earth and stared for a moment, mesmerized by the sparkling stone in its center. “It’s a ring! I found a diamond ring!”
I raced to Mom, who had by some miracle convinced Grandma to stop walking.
“I’m sure it’s not real, honey,” she said as I dropped the treasure into her palm.
“It is, Mom. I know it is.” My legs suddenly reenergized, I started jumping.
Mom sent me a sympathetic smile that faded as she studied the ring.
“Well,” Grandma elbowed me aside and peered over Mom’s shoulder. “It’s fake, isn’t it?”
“I think it’s authentic.” Mom’s eyes moved from the ring to me and back.
I grinned. “Put it on. You can have it.”
Mom slipped it into her pocket instead.
My treasure was real. The police verified the value of the ring then held it at the stationhouse for ninety days. When no one came to claim it, they returned it to my mom. She wore it on her left hand, a replacement for the engagement ring she’d lost giving me a bath when I was a baby. As eldest daughter, I now had part in the special symbol of my parents’ love the ring represented.
The ring stayed on my mom’s finger as I grew older, a silent witness to my high school plays, graduation, college years, and wedding. An ever-present reminder of the walk I’d been too bored to appreciate.
One summer day, I trailed Mom into the assisted living facility where Grandma had moved. Of the three of us, I now lived far away, nearly six hundred miles.
“Coming will mean a lot to her.” Mom led the way to her room.
Grandma opened the door before we knocked. We laughed and hugged, smiles splitting my soft face and Grandma’s parchment-like skin.
“Let’s walk outside.” Grandma coughed, a subtle reminder of her emphysema. “You get old sitting around a place like this.”
Her back hunched forward with age this time, rather than mine hunching with cold. She limped slightly and tugged the neckline of her shirt even though it wasn’t hot. “My neighbor next door’s moving into a nursing home next week.”
Grandma looked at me and waited. Was I supposed to say something? Respond to her gossip in one way or another?
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Mom answered. I mouthed Mom a “thanks.” “What about your neighbor on the other side, Florence?”
“Florence. Well, her son . . .”
I let Grandma’s words flow over me, the idle chatter bringing back memories of that long ago day, and I noticed how Grandma now struggled to walk a fraction of the distance she had once trekked daily.
We passed an elderly lady sitting in her wheelchair. “Her grandson’s a musician. Lives all the way in New York City.” Grandma took my hand and held it. “Doesn’t come to visit, though.”
Wanting to share the moment with Mom as well, I glanced her way. Her ring, a treasure cherished for two decades, caught my eye as it glinted in the evening sun. I slipped my hand into my mom’s and felt the worn band press against my skin.
Three mothers, three daughters, hand in hand. A different kind of treasure. One I hadn’t understood on our first walk but understood too well this time.
The value of the moment wasn’t in the gossip, the pace of the walk, the location, the weather, or even the ring. The value was in all of them. In the time spent with my mother and her mother.
The treasure was the memories.
A summa cum laude graduate with an English Education degree, Naomi Rawlings has been writing inspirational romance for over two years. Her latest completed manuscript, Her Journey’s End, recently finaled in the 2011 Genesis Contest. Naomi lives in Michigan’s rugged Upper Peninsula with her two young boys and her wonderful husband, who pastors a small church.


  1. Beautiful. You brought a tear to my eye Naomi.

  2. A tender, lovely memory, yes, and absolutely a treasure, Naomi. Thanks for posting this.

  3. this is simply beautiful, Naomi!