Tacked above her kitchen sink, my mother kept a list of our names: daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren. She titled it: “Happiness is…” When she died, I got the list, since my twin sons were the most recent addition. It’s in my new house above my kitchen sink. Though I have it in a protective plastic frame, it’s fading. What used to be black ball-point is barely pale fern. Maybe moonshine. I think about retracing my mother’s letters, but I keep putting it off. I’d also taken one of her lipsticks, but when I tried it on, the sudden flood of rose made me so uneasy I had to throw out the tube.
In “Happiness,” published in this year’s Santa Fe Literary Review, I consider what happiness was to my mother, and what it might have been before she had her list of names, when she was a traveler. Kate McCahill (a fearless traveler—check out her new book, Patagonian Road, here), is SFLR‘s faculty advisor and a lovely classmate of mine from VCFA. I’m lucky to share this issue with another VCFA comrade, Emily Brisse, whose story “Confluence” brings rising floodwaters to eerie life.
Beauty shot of SFLR, with its vast and inviting western sky, taken on a very New England stone wall under the peach tree by our post-and-rail fence. My mother would have loved our new yard, and more, she would have loved that one of her listed loves, my eldest son, got so excited planting bulbs along the fence he is planning to ask Santa for gardening tools. We have all fall and winter to prepare for spring’s punch of gold happiness.