Mother and Child in a Hammock
We had a hammock in the backyard in the small old house where we used to live on Fern Street when you were ten years old. I bought it at a tag sale for ten dollars. The guy at the tag sale helped me put all the green metal pieces in the back seat of the car. When I got home, I carried them one by one to the backyard and built the hammock stand out of them. The hammock swing was orange canvas. I needed to ask you to help me pull it tight to place it on the chain that hung down from the metal bar to hold it in place. It worked. It was a real hammock. I used it a few times. You and your friends did too. Our cat, Lassie, found a shady spot lying underneath it on hot days. Eventually, it fell apart and the metal pieces rusted. For a while, it was my accomplishment.
I remember that hammock best from the night we watched the meteor shower in it. At your insistence, we woke up at four in the morning and dressed ourselves in warm clothes, sweat pants, socks and sweaters and took a big thick quilt out to the backyard and lay down together in that hammock. The air was cold but as we stared up at the night sky we were warm beneath that quilt.
The sky revealed a miracle of falling stars. There were shooting stars flying through space leaving a trail of sparkly dust in their wake. I had never seen such a sight before. I had, in the past, laid out on a blanket on the ground when such things had been predicted and had seen one or two moving stars in the span of an hour. This was not the same. It was one after another after another. It was more like something you would see in a planetarium, at a fireworks show, or in a cartoon. It wasn’t something I ever imagined seeing in real life.
You weren’t surprised. You had expected it to be like this when you clamored for me to wake you up and watch it with you. You thought it would be like this, an amazing and endless stream of stars racing across the sky. You believed that the wishes we made on all of them would come true. We snuggled under that quilt for a good long time, mother and child in a hammock, warm and delighted under the night sky.
I will leave that moment just where it is, in the background, on Fern St., in the dark, when you were ten. I will resist the pull to compare it to any other time in our lives. I will take the picture of those falling stars in all their brightness with me. I will bask in the warmth under that quilt where I can smell your clean hair and hear your soft laugh. I will take pride in the hammock that I built and remember how it held us securely on the night we witnessed a miracle in the sky.
Madlynn Haber is a writer living in Northampton, Massachusetts. Her work has been published in the anthologies Letters to Fathers from Daughters and Word of Mouth Volume Two, in Anchor Magazine, Exit 13 Magazine and on websites including: A Gathering of the Tribes, The Voices Project, The Jewish Writing Project, BoomSpeak, Quail Bell Magazine and Mused Literary Review.