“Mama look at my creation!” holding it on a tray so it does not break.
A tired but still beautiful woman wanders around the corner and stoops dead in her tracks. Her eyes trained on me. “What did you do?”
“I made it for you. I couldn’t find correct supplies so I just used anything I could find.” Like the toaster, electric wires from my lamp, my eyes glasses, lots of duct tape and paperclips, a bicycle wheel, and other things.
No words or even a noise comes out of my mom. She just stands there stilled and speechless. Her left hand travels to her mouth to keep whatever she was about to say inside.
“Do you like it mama? I made it especially for you.” I am guessing my smile would say it all, I could feel it spread from one ear to the next.
“……..” something came out of my mother’s covered mouth but I couldn’t quite catch it.
“GO TO YOUR ROOM!” She screamed at me.
She screamed at me…I ran. I didn’t stop until I reached my room. It was filled with the remainder parts and scrapes. All my failed attempts and miscalculations. There were scorch marks on the carpet where it had exploded when I turned it on.
“I don’t understand Mama.” I whisper to myself, because there was no one left to hear me. “I just wanted to help her remember.” I curl up onto my bed, hiding myself in the corner, squeezing a pillow as if it would explode. I slept with tears pouring from my eyes, and my heart slowly breaking into smaller pieces.
Headache is the first thing I notice. It is burning my brain and squeezing every last drop of energy out of me. “Mama…” is my second thought.
It must be nighttime or early morning, because darkness is waiting outside. I float out of my blankets and sit on the edge of my bed listening to the sounds around me. “Can I go get some water? Or do I stay here?” The kitchen is on the opposite side of the house. I would have to walk past my mama’s room, and our floors reveal everything and everyone. “I’ll take my chances,” standing up tall and determined.
As I open my door it squeaks just a moment. But I know I can open it all the way because I fixed that last year with dish soap. The floor boards outside my room are now covered with a small layer of rocks, which I did because it stops them from squeaking.
As I walk down the hallway I see all the small inventions I have made to make our lives easier. All of the objects are just of old appliances wired together to help my mom with chores. An electric broom and mop, a window washer, a clothes folder, a tiny robot to do the yard work… mental note…” make robot slightly bigger to push lawn mower.”
My mama’s door is next. I was shut, but not slammed. When Mama slams it new cracks show over the doorframe. I recently made the tiny robot paint the door. It is now a beautiful yellow with small flowers covering it. I wanted Mama to feel happy to enter this room.
I put my ear gently to the door to listen for any noise of crying…nothing…she must be sleeping. I hate hearing my mother cry herself to sleep. That’s why I made what I did. I wanted her to be happy again.
Now just past te living room and onto the kitchen. I round the corner and….
“Mama…” I whisper so softly that she must not have heard me.
There was my beautiful mama. Perched on the couch, hunched over watching something. I wandered around slowly not to disturb her of frighten her…to see what she was seeing…that’s…
“Mama…” I say louder so she can hear me this time.
Her body snaps up, and instantly her hand moves to brush away her tears. “Yes, baby?”
“Why are you crying? Do you hate it?” tears welling up inside me. Trying to break past the barricade in my eyes.
She opens her arms to me, asking me to climb into her embrace.
I do. I fit my body in the space for me. I nuzzled down into her arm and squeeze it ever so slightly to know she is still there.
“No, honey. I love it. I am sorry for yelling at you before. Before today, it just seemed like you were trying to push me to move on and forget. I didn’t really see what you gave me this time. I just saw another invention to help me forget, so I released all my anger and frustration onto you. After you ran I broke down and cried myself into a sadden sleep right there outside on the cobblestone path. I woke to darkness engulfing me and the small device still spinning and singing that happy tune.” She began petting me and humming the tune which I gave her.
“Mama, can I play it again?” sitting up into her lap, staring into her eyes. “Can I watch it with you?”
My beautiful mama stared back into my eyes, “Yes, baby. I want to remember with you.”
For a second I scramble around the room for an extension cord. I pull the thing in and center it onto the small coffee table. I move back to my mama, climb back into her embrace, then I lean back to the table and flip the switch.
I light bulb comes to life. I painted it yellow to make everything shimmer. The toaster pops and the bicycle wheel stands into existence. The music starts to play and the wheel turns moving the pictures around. Just like a Ferris wheel my invention turn exposing our past. The first picture holds our family: Mama, Dad, Sister, Brother…Me. We are all sitting and laughing. The next, brother’s 18th birthday; following, Mama and Daddy’s wedding; then our water fight… Mama was taking the picture; after that one, I made a collage of our baby photos: Katie, Josiah, and Me; next our first camping trip…
I hung as many photos as I could on that bicycle wheel, but I ran out of duct tape and paperclips. I programmed it so that it would continue to spin until the song ended. The song I chose was mama’s favorite song. It was her wedding song, and in the past, our go to song to serenade her into sweet embarrassment.
I never wanted mama to forget them. I just wanted to be enough for her to keep living. I wanted to fill the gaps of her life that she hadn’t had enough energy for. I wanted to make her life simpler so she would smile again. I wanted her to see me and not look at me like I was the only one to survive the accident. I wanted my mama back…
“Mama, is this okay? Is this invention allowed…” I say into her arm.
“Yes, baby. This invention is the best one ever!” she sighs into my hair and pulls me closer. “Honey, you need to know…” as she pulls me back and stares into my eyes. Her tears are falling and spilling off of her face. “Part if the reason I never appreciated your other inventions was because they reminded me of your father. He would always discuss wacky or ridiculous ideas and always say he would someday create them. When I look at you I see all of them. Your father’s talent. Your sister’s beauty. Your brother’s wit. And your creative imagination. I am proud of you.”
I scramble out of her embrace and dash to my room.
I come back holding a tattered notebook. I produce it from my embrace. This is the secret I never wanted to reveal. “This was Daddy’s. I took it when he…when he…I took it…” head lowering, not wanting to see her reaction.
I look up and tears are spilling down her face. But a smile is creeping across it too. Her eyes come alive and her arms embrace the book into a hug. Her beautiful body shakes from the tears, but this time they are happy ones. She looks up at me and…
“Thank you, my baby girl. You have given me the best part of him back. I never knew he was remembering every one of these inventions. Some were jokes, some were love, so were fights, some were arguments, some were special, some were secret…I have all my memories done in this journal, and in this Ferris wheel of memories.
She pulls me again into an embrace. She leaves the journal and wheel on that small coffee table. We cry together and stay there until light comes through. My mama is back. She came back to me.
Twenty years have passed, and I am thirty-two years old today. Our house seems so empty. I am there to pack up anything I want and take it with me to my home. The house seems so bare without her here.
Mama is gone, she is with Daddy and Katie and Josiah. I love this place, but I couldn’t be here without them too. Wandering through the house I see all the inventions I made and how they sparkle even with the layers of dust on them. The rocks outside my room and scattered across the floor. Mama’ door is a darker shade of yellow, but the flowers seem just as bright. The tiny robot is at the kitchen sink; frozen in time, probably because the batteries wore off.
The living room…The couch still sits there. Just a small layer of dust covers it. The coffee table still stands firm. I will take this with me. But what I was searching for was…that…there off in a glass case sits the little Ferris wheel. However, this time there are more pictures. Half of the wheel is the past and the other half is me and Mama. Those eighteen years were the best days of my life with her. Next to that glass case is the journal of my parent’s love. I looks the same as the day I gave it to her. Tattered and worn, but loved. And the title still shows on the leather cover.
When I discovered this journal in my Dad’s workplace after the accident I assumed it was for me. He always discussed leaving a journal for his girl, so that she could create or just remember the memories. Thinking back, I realize it was for her. But the lettering was still clear and crisp on that leather cover, as the day I found it in his desk. It read, “Ellie” which is me, but also Mama.