“What is that up in the sky?” asked my mother. I was driving her home from an evening visit that we’ve come to enjoy on Fridays. I looked through the window silently acknowledging the tightness in my chest as I answered as casually as possible, “that’s the moon.” These kind of questions are becoming more and more frequent.
I wasn’t clear if she forgot the word for moon or forgot what the moon is. How would I ask that? Mom, do remember what the moon is? Mom, did you forget the word for the moon? Or perhaps more discretely, what do you think about the stages of the moon? Jesus! Any of these inquiries sound so condescending to ask a 71-year-old woman. I just couldn't ask. I simply said, isn’t it beautiful tonight in all of its full, luminous glory? She gazed and shook her head up and down all the while not taking her eyes off of it, a silent yes.
I then unbuckled her seatbelt waited and watched as she walked to the elevator, emerged onto the third floor balcony and let herself into her apartment, relieved as she crossed the threshold into her cozy sanctuary. I drove away thinking.
The moon. The forgetfulness of this beautiful, orbiting rock has taken the memory issue to an entire new level. Its significance in our history is grand. We were the first generation to watch rockets orbit it, men walk on it, people dream of what’s on the other side of it and then to find out. The moon is memorable.
My mom watched these historical events. I remember her sense of awe and wonder while she gathered us around the TV to take vicarious part in the experience. She read us stories about the moon and how it lit the path for Hansel and Gretle to find their way back home only to be lost in the woods as the birds ate the crumbs that marked the path. I loved the stories she read to us. My mom’s story telling voice, rich with inflection mesmerized me. And that’s what upsets me. She is unable to retrieve the words for these significant memories. Will she one day ask,"who are you"?
It took me about 3 minutes to drive home as these thoughts were racing through my mind, praying that it was the word moon and not the concept that was forgotten. And then, I thought about her reaction when she saw it hanging low in the sky. She found the words to ask me about it. That was a good thing. She was curious enough to inquire. I’m happy about that. And she was again awed by it like it was the first time she had witnessed something so outrageously beautiful.
So, two nights ago, I saw the moon in a different light. I saw it from the eyes of innocence, from the eyes of experiences long forgotten and from the eyes of someone who continues to acknowledge beauty in everything.