Mother, have you ever noticed how in the middle of a cornfield the land stops only to meet the horizon in the far distance? I cannot recall if you ever lived in the sunny countryside as a child, as I did with my grandparents when you left with Danny, the man you chose to replace your father because you could not live without the abuse you had grown so accustomed to. I tend to think you did not, for if you had, you would have understood that your future had not yet been defined—that the possibilities were as endless as the flat land that stretched before you and all around you, and that you did not have to place a man between you and the horizon, which belonged to you if you had dared claim it.
Come, let us go. You must see the conifers. They do not possess the whimsy of the Midwest trees, but look at how they stand tall enough to pierce the clouds. Imagine yourself positioned on one of the treetops and looking down. You can see your father isn’t as big as you thought when you were a child, and Danny, beside him, is even more insignificant. They cannot reach you where you are in the clouds. Their fists cannot bruise you and their words cannot cut you into tiny little fragments. When you climb back down the tree, you will have the same quiet but unshakable confidence as the conifers. Your newfound posture will mimic that of the trees and your head having straightened itself, you will no longer see only the ground beneath your feet, but the sky above and all that is in between and beautiful.
Please let me show you a most majestic mountain. I do not believe you remember my telling you about it because when I did, you were in an opioid-induced blissful fog. Oh, but that drug did help you when you were in Illinois, didn’t it? You will not need it on this Northwest gem. The beauty of the, and please don’t be startled when I say, volcano, is far more intoxicating than your therapy of choice. Any magic lacking from your childhood can be found in its magnificent forests and lakes. Listen to the trees moving to the backdrop of a melodic stream—Nature’s orchestra. Let the music fill you. Let your skin absorb the splendor of all that is here and make its way to where your father once lived within you and reclaim from him what he stripped you of.
There is one last thing I want to show you, Mother. Look at my backyard. Isn’t it charming? I challenge you to find and count all the rhododendrons, but before you do, I want you to see my glorious maple. Look how fat its canopy is and how red its leaves. I have a lovely view of it from where I write inside my office. I often pause and watch the birds cheerfully hopping from branch to branch and the squirrels scurrying below. Now with you here, when I look out my window to admire my tree, I will take comfort in knowing that you are cleansed and whole beneath it, where you will remain for all eternity, and although our relationship will be one of silence, we will begin anew, and you will be the mother we both wanted and needed you to be.
Amanda Marjorie McKinnon lives in Puyallup, Washington. When she is not writing, she is a web designer, a mother, a student, the founder of three non-profits for children, a budding comedian, and the housekeeper of the most charming old house in town—her own.