The Morning Bird

When I was little I used to fall asleep in the park. There was a big patch of grass I liked, a clearing built by fallen tree trunks and wooden benches. Dandelions running up and down its edges, ants marching below. The grass was always a bright and a pointy green and no amount of trampling or extended slumber seemed to have any effect. When I first found the patch I would pick away at the grass, rolling back and forth, digging my elbows in, trying to leave my mark there for the next visitor to see. But the grass would always bounce right back and over time that grew to be a comfort.

I would go there after school, during the weekends, in the mornings, anytime my mother was feeling worn. It was nearby so I didn’t mind much, and I could tell she appreciated it too.

During those times she would speak only in fragments, no beginning or ends, no names, only him or you or this. The other words were there, you could hear them if you listened closely but she caught them before they came out, her cheeks bunched up with lost words, and as they filled she grew more silent. Her eyes layered with red cracks and her movement slow and deliberate, a lumber that took her from room to room, searching for any kind of release.

At the park I could hide for hours and the forest would keep me company. The morning bird and her family of red and orange. The squirrels racing back and forth from storage to treasure. Young mothers with their young children, and older mothers with their old dogs. The sounds put me at ease and within minutes I could be sound asleep. Nothing about that forest ever let me feel unsafe.

I was never good at measuring how long it would take. Sometimes it was over before I left the house, sometimes hours later she would have the same worn out look, but at some point the feeling would pass. She would come out and smile and it didn’t matter to me what it meant or why it happened because it was so light, and so warm and never except in those moments did I see anything like it. Those times stick in my mind the most, my mother, in her sky blue apron, her eyes a little wet as she asked me about my day, the brightness resting a top her face.