Birthday Greetings, Bottle of Wine

Barbara Coatsworth

My mother would have been 64 today, and I had the perfect song to sing. There were plans made and places to go, years of things I had written bold in pen, but now those pages are plowed beneath the constant crossing of thick lines over sinking letters. These are the plans we will never meet and the roads that will never rise to greet us. These are the dates we will never keep with every vow on the cusp of broken. The days will drift or pass as they are prone to do, and I cannot help but wonder if there are any promises left.

But who cares about the things we will never do when we are filled with the things that we have done? Who cares about a painting unseen, a punchline undelivered, or this hole in my heart? They are all but shadows of wherever we are as lights strike and hit us—the meaningless goal posts against which we measure things like progress and the distance we have traveled—they are nothing to most of us, and far too important to someone. For we have made memories that are wonderful and stories to tell. We have the echoes of our laughter.

Everything is a postcard for the places we are from.

Life grows, spins, and goes madly on. All we can do is breathe, love, and choose how bright we will shine.

My mother let the sun fall from her in generous beams of warmth and gold. She shared the moon just as lightly and sometimes louder. When she raised her glass it was to your health, filled with wine and starshine.

Now the nights are unraveled by threads of thought, every stitch of time a wish for sleep and the wounds slowly mending. The days keep showing up, set to move us forever forward, and it falls upon us the sharing of her memory. It is a task we accept with bittersweet turns of grace and worry. Our souvenirs are tears and smiles, the lonesome keepsakes of a lifetime. I can only offer you everything she has given me.

I like to think that she is everywhere now, upon the paths we follow and the roads not taken. She is there between the difference.


Today I passed a swollen dell tucked beside the overgrowth of asphalt and a fence that no one ever looks through, and it reminded me of places I have never been. It had the semblance of shelter. I could live there, I thought, beneath a sullen tree, and I would take every single thing that it gave me.

That is the running away and the need to flee. That is the hiding and the want for arms around you.

Perhaps together we could forget there is a cake unbaked in a box in the kitchen. Perhaps together we could grow distracted by whatever looms off across the distance. Mayhap one day will find us there.

The only thing I know is that we are all going somewhere. Sometimes our steps are small, soft, and solemn. Sometimes our leaps are sprung from joy, the landings free and careless.

For now the memories are heavy and hard to open, but I am told they grow gentle and fill with ease, or we become just the stronger for it.

I think my mother would have liked that, and every glass that we are raising.

It would have been a beautiful birthday.

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