We turned into a long drive with pasture on either side of us. A horse stood with her foul in the distance on one side of the road. A mother protecting her child, I thought to myself as the gravel spit out from under the back tires. Lush green grass and trees spread all around us.
We passed a stately old farmhouse before veering right to be met by a romping Golden Retriever. Jackson, my son’s dog. Charlie’s home is on a horse farm in the rolling foothills of the Virginia Mountains.
The front door was open giving it the feel of freedom. He walked through it then. I smiled. Thirty-one years ago he was born five pounds, six ounces. He stood there—six feet, three inches, about 195 pounds—and would be married in three days.
The breeze blew through the soft white curtains in the kitchen.
The table was set with a small potted rose in the center—simplicity—a flower that would continue to bloom for as long as it was cared for. Like a marriage.
Charlie was making dinner. He walked out the back door to cut some fresh herbs from the pots that sat on the deck. Nothing artificial. Like him.
His artwork hung on the walls around us and this meal was being approached just like his art—a careful blend and balance of mediums, textures and colors. This was an artist’s home.
As he stood on releve′ to reach for some spices, my mind flashed back to all the dance classes he had waited for me to finish.
All the stage wings he had hung out in with stage managers. So much hadn’t gone according to plan. I didn’t give my child the life I had hoped I would. Can a mother’s love make up for all her mistakes?
Jackson led me out the door as Todd and Charlie talked. This was a setting not unlike the places Charlie had lived as a little boy. His father loved the Blueridge Mountains and took me there not long after we were married. That’s where Charlie was born.
Jackson led me down the road, past the farmhouse that was semi abandoned now, and over to the horse and her foal. She let me feed her grass and pet her little one.
Jackson did a couple laps around the farmhouse before we worked our way back.
“Did you see the flowers, Mom?” Charlie asked as I walked up the steps of the deck. White and purple irises had suddenly popped up days earlier. I had painted irises when I was pregnant with him. He had sat in a stroller beside me at a street fair as his father sold hotdogs with my paintings on display around us. We had made our grocery money that day.
“Yes, they’re beautiful,” was all I could manage to say as his bride to be drove up. White irises for Lauren I thought.
The dusk light gave the setting a hue of lavender light. Lauren walked around the corner with a glass of wine and we clinked our glasses. “You have given me the best gift, loving my son,” I said hugging her. I gave her a kiss on the side of her head.
“I’m marrying my best friend,” she responded with her smile.
“I married mine too,” I said.
We joined Todd and Charlie in the back yard. Todd was throwing the basketball for Jackson.
“So when are you going to have a baby?!” Todd chortled.
“Ha!” Charlie and Lauren both laughed. “We think it will be great when the time is right.”
“When the time is right?” I asked. “That doesn’t usually happen.”
“You didn’t want to have a baby when you had me, did you Mom?”
“Oh, I couldn’t wait to have a baby!” (Your dad and I had been hired by Steamboat Springs Repertory in Colorado. We had spent years in NYC and the mountain air did something to me. Suddenly I found myself picking up magazines with pictures of babies on the cover. All I could think about was having a baby. Towards the end of the season I was stopping at Wendy’s for Frosties on my way to and from rehearsal. I thought my costumes were tight because of the ice cream…you are right though, we hadn’t planned you. Get my point? Oh beloved child of mine.)
My sketch of Charlie
We ate our salads on the deck as a light rain fell—the tomatoes tasting earthy and rich against the spicy Thai peanut dressing—then sat down at the table. Charlie presented plates of Mahi-Mahi—marinated in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper—served with roasted asparagus and rice, slow simmered in a mushroom broth with herbs.
“Why can’t you make asparagus like this?” Todd asked. “I would eat it.”
My son is a chef.
The next day, Lauren drove to DC to pick up a friend. We took Charlie for a beard trim. We ate a late lunch—Charlie and I splitting guacamole and chips, crab cake bruschetta and a roasted veggie sandwich. Afterwards, we drove back to the farm and walked together to see more of the farm’s horses.
We were in the car ready to leave for the night. “I miss Charlie,” I said before Todd had even started the engine.
“Well, go say good night again.”
My chest was tight, my throat thick, my eyes burned back tears as I jumped out of the car. “Charlie?” He met me at the walk.
“I love you, sweetie. I’m so proud of you.” I held him in my arms then, all six feet, three inches of him and kissed the side of his head. I couldn’t let go of him as I thought how he had received the gift of my prayers—a wife to love and be loved by.