We stepped outside, the grocery store’s glass doors parting to a stage of early spring after a harsh Minnesota winter. My son rode in a baby carrier strapped to my chest, sunlight warming the pudgy cheeks that had been protected for his first months by a baby blanket over his car seat. Above the rows of cars, the sky expanded like a child’s picture: bright blue crayons dotted with puffy white clouds, cartoon-like in their perfection.
“Now we are walk-ing out-side!” I whispered, carefully enunciating each syllable. We spent our days together, and I narrated everything. It was all a first for him, which made it all an adventure.
“Sky!” I pointed upward. “See the blue sky?” He wiggled his chubby legs, rocking us both like a fit of giggles. He might not have understood my words, but his excitement told me he understood something deeper. “And those are clouds! See the white clouds?”
Before us, the blue horizon stretched as far as I could see, as though connecting the past to the future. I squinted my eyes in the bright sunlight, wanting to take in the beauty, to freeze the moment like so many with him for all eternity. In the distance, on the soft curve of a cloud, I spotted a memory.
I’m a young girl, my back against a warm flannel picnic blanket, gazing at puffy white clouds that form pictures. My mom sits beside me, her legs tucked to the side, humming softly as she tends to our red-and-white cooler. A Dorothy Hamill wedge frames her pretty heart-shaped face and youthful freckles. “You have such an active imagination!” she turns toward me and smiles, her hazel eyes twinkling in delight at the cloud image I’ve presented her. I close my eyes for a moment and bask in her warmth, as though she were the sun, before searching for the next picture that will tickle her.
Where had we been? What had I seen in those clouds? I couldn’t remember now, from the vantage of my early 30s. It was such a small memory anyway, like a dew drop falling from a tree. And yet the feeling had stayed with me, rising this spring day as though it were the sun warming me.
My gaze dropped back down to the rows of cars before us. We had an early childhood class to get to, and some nursing to take care of. My son didn’t know that my mom had just died after a long battle with cancer. He didn’t know that I lost her too soon, and that he would never get to know her. He wouldn’t even remember these little moments of our early days together — every one of them as precious to me as though they were the air I breathed. But I knew that even when he was old and I was no longer with him, his heart would always remember.
“See the blue sky?” I leaned forward and kissed the top of his downy head.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” I whispered.
Caryn Mohr is the Social Media Editor for Literary Mama. She was named a finalist in the 2015-16 Loft Literary Center Mentor Series in Poetry and Creative Prose, was a participant in the spring 2015 session of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ Writer to Writer mentorship program, and frequently takes creative nonfiction courses at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Caryn has a B.A. in Journalism and an M.A. in Public Affairs from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, with her husband and two sons (ages 9 and 11), and can be found on Twitter @carmohr.