Still learning lessons from Ma

UNALAKLEET — He remembered a time she and I picked out music together. I imagine we were in front of her big, black stereo, weeding through her CDs. She had a lot of them. A song we picked was “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and he thought that was cool.

“You and your mom were such good friends,” Charlie said.

“We were good friends. She’s the definition of love to me,” I told Charlie and thanked him for the memory. I thanked him with the kind of gratitude you feel in your cells, your bone marrow.

That night I thought about my friend’s story. That memory of Ma sparkles and shines. For a moment, I felt her comfort again. I cried a bit, happy Charlie decided to message me. I missed her and had the thought I often do — some days it feels like life will never be as bright as it was when Ma was with us. At that moment, the thought seemed unacceptable.

My mother was the greatest source of love for me. She made every little moment special and celebrated everything — from a kid giving away their first ptarmigan to a cousin’s graduation. She celebrated a sunny day by gathering people for picnics. She celebrated the first humpy I cut for drying by proudly showing it to Papa Ralph – causing me to uŋa at his attention and sweet words.

She celebrated my son’s birth through her simple presence. She took breaks from sweeping by dancing to CCR, which played loudly in the house. And after her tragic death more than 10 years ago, a fog settled in our lives that sometimes lifts, but always returns. For years I have prayed, relented, prayed, relented, prayed, relented. Burn this fog away.

And that night, after Charlie’s story, magic happened. I simply thought of a quote from one of my favorites. I searched for it and found it.

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” So said Roald Dahl. He and my friend helped me remember that I had been stuck in thinking a certain way for far too long. I expected someone else to clear the fog, when I had the power all along.

While my mom was indeed an incredible person, she herself wasn’t particularly sparkly and shiny. In fact, she’d hate to be described that way. After talking to Charlie, I realized the reason those memories of her are so bright and beautiful is that she looked for sparkle and shine every single day — in someone’s humor, in the place we cut fish with gobs of family, in the food we ate (especially her own), in the innocence and spunk of her grandkids.

She constantly found reason to laugh. She looked for it. She sought out the magic in life, every single day.

Ma told me that for too long I was waking up wondering when life would be grand. When would my days brighten up and take off? Maybe it’ll happen when I finish the house. Maybe when I travel the world more and marvel at all it offers. Maybe when I make enough money to bring my dad to a Yankees-Red Sox game with dad cheering for the Yanks and me for the Sox. Maybe life will shine when I have enough money to build a cabin upriver, where I’ll use Coleman lanterns and eat Spam and sourdough. Maybe it’ll happen when I’m in a relationship. Laureli, your life is grand. Your son is grand. Your daughter brightens this world.

The next morning, I had Freddie Mercury singing through my little speaker. The sourdough starter bubbled on the counter, the sun was shining, and I enjoyed a particularly great, normal cup of coffee. While the cool morning air hinted it was nearly time to pick blackberries, I knew it would be hot enough for a swim in the ocean later. Maybe hot enough for getting another gallon of blueberries — without battling the mosquitoes. And the shiniest thought that morning — mom and I were good friends.

All magic.

I felt the fog lift that day. I know it’ll return. But now I know how to burn it off and get it out of my days. I have sparkle and shine in my life every single day, and I just have to open my eyes.

2 responses to “Still learning lessons from Ma”

  1. Laureli,
    My wife and I joined about 100,000 peaceful, dignified, determined people of every sort today’s Women’s March in Seattle. Friendship, laughter and deep respect were in everyone’s hearts and on everyone’s lips.
    I noticed a little map of Women’s Marches in our vast country today and noticed a little red for near what seemed be Nome. I wanted to find out what our sisters and brothers near Nome had done today and express my solidarity and appreciation.
    I saw your piece about you day and all the wonderful connections to loved ones, especially your mother, that you assembled to give you strength and purpose and resolve today. It was the most heartfelt, lovely writing. I’ve sent the link to our friends, all of whom loved you kind and fierce spirit. You’ve spoken on another level about today and I’m deeply touched.
    In love and solidarity,
    Tim Rood

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your note and encouraging words, Tim. Our little town of 700 had its own march of 38 people and we all wanted to continue walking despite the cold. Afterward we gathered in my home for hot chocolate and coffee – we didn’t want it to end! This weekend we’re gathering at another home to write postcards to senators and representatives in D.C.

      It seems to me that fear has turned into resolve and recognition of substance and I am grateful. Know that we are highly encouraged by the turnout in Seattle and the recent words of your mayor.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: