An Open Letter To Nico Rose

Dear Nico,

Your mom usually chastises me for editing too much, so for her sake I’m just gonna write.

It is spring again in the place your mom used to live.

The oak bark, still soaked black, contrasts with the green-gold of the first leaves all the way up the hill on 170.  Even this early a lushness is building.  Even this early, stepping out of my car, the understated buzz of bees going about the business of birth, the pop and rip of bulbs becoming blooms, and the hushed rush of creeks comes from the timberline.

I used to have to edit and grade your mom’s papers in a English class we had, and that is probably the reason her handwriting is still so vivid in my mind; the script of her words rings as true as the sound of her voice.  I felt ridiculous trying to evaluate her writing; it was always well presented, always poignant.  Thinking back on it, I can not remember if I held it in too high of a regard to be analytical. I don’t think so, but my memory won’t reveal it.

I had gone up the hill to see my mother, who I love in a way that I can not fairly articulate.  She and I sat in her living room and talked about how our town has grown and not grown, changed and not changed.  Iris Dement sang softly in the background, as did the trees, two geese fattening on young nymphs, the sound of nature stretching and yawning.

“I don’t want you to worry,” my mother says, “but I’m pretty sure I’m losing my mind.”

I have a little committee of voices in my head, ones that I have assigned to aspects of my right-brained ADD, and they finished the conversation with her while the voice of my heart stayed silent.  We talked about symptoms, diagnoses, appointments.  We stayed a little silent, had hugs, said goodbyes.

My mom has a dog, Lola.  Lola Granola, I call her.  She is all white save for a mask of black over her eyes.  A Great Pyrenees.  Lola won’t frolic with me, or even let me pet her.  But she guards my mother, which is fine.  It is no different as I leave up the steps; she gives a low warning bark as I make it to the top step then pads over to my mom, waiting at the bottom of the steps.  Mom says to Lola, points to me as she says it, “Lola, that’s my baby.  Don’t bark at my baby!”  I always tell my mom that I don’t mind.  She can not like me as long as she loves her.

I am writing this in a place where I write about music, Nico, and I won’t stray from that here.  Your mother and I, back in the springtime of our lives, used to write a secret phrase, “Whoopie Cat”, on pieces of paper as a good luck superstition.  It was a corruption of a lyric from a song called “Misty Mountain Hop” from a band called Led Zeppelin.  I can’t remember why or who thought the words “would we care” ever sounded like “Whoopie Cat”, but it was our little secret word, just shared with a few intimate people, a blessing of good luck, a whisper of the love we all shared.

I couldn’t go straight home after seeing my mother.  I got as far as the old Zimmerman Church parking lot, standing empty and wood hewn, a fort for ghosts guarding the entry to the past.  I parked the car and cried all I needed to cry, until I thought of your mother’s handwriting, gracing a blank page with our secret word, surrounded with the rebirth of the woods we once lived in, thinking of how blessed you two already are to have each other, and how wonderful the two of you will be.

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