A Merry Heart

A Merry Heart
February 8, 2018

I turned the bowl over with something akin to a caress. I traced the flamboyant fruit pattern adorning the wooden bowl with my fingers. My mind traveled back to one of the most treasured memories of my life: a trip to Ixtapa with my mother.

 Recently, after my mother experienced a life-threatening health issue and short stay in the ICU, I traveled to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to care for her. The doctor was clear and firm: my mother could no longer live without supervision. After 3 weeks of being overwhelmed with caretaking, difficult decisions and packing, we (my husband and I) moved my mom to Kentucky to live under the care of family. After we had safely settled her in, my husband and I traveled back through Cedar Rapids. Just driving into the city filled my mind with memories; the Quaker Oats factory—repugnant to some—smelled like driving into Grandma’s driveway! It was while packing a few forgotten items, that I spied the Mexican fruit bowl hanging over the kitchen stove.

 During the 3 weeks I was there with my mother, we had relived many memories. We laughed and we cried. I know that sounds cliché, but we did! One of the walks we took down memory lane recalled the time my husband and I had taken her on a trip she had dreamed of her whole life; she remembered and asked me about the article I had written about it for Far Above Rubies, so, for my mom, I am reprinting an abridged, rewritten version of that article.

The Naïve Traveler: An Abridged Version

A “Carbon Copy?” In some ways! A few of our character traits maybe, but more than that, our personality traits are SO alike!

My mother and I share many things: we both enjoyed art (my mom was a great artist and writer), we loved and had owned horses, both went to nursing school, but I think chiefly we both had a strong desire to travel, most likely as a result of our voracious love of reading. My mom would read a book and hand it down to me: the exotic city of Cairo, China Town in San Francisco, the tropical Caribbean, the mysterious Dark Continent of Africa, all places where some exciting, intricate plot would unfold.

After years of discussion, my husband and I took my mother on a trip to Ixtapa, Mexico. It was to be my “gift” to her, but it truly was as much for me. You can imagine my excitement over actually sharing the fulfillment of a dream with my “kindred spirit.”

I will concede, it is difficult to stifle your enthusiasm when a long-awaited, unexpectedly answered dream is unfolding before your eyes, and my mom couldn’t…be stifled.

Her excitement took shape immediately when mom took an entire roll of film before leaving the airport.

Of course I took delight in her child-like enthusiasm at everything she saw. Her head was in constant movement; her gleeful gasps of wonder were endearing. There were a few “incidents” to be endured when navigating with an inexperienced traveler: misplaced drivers license (despite repeated warnings to have it “handy”), wildly flying clothes as my mom dove into her suitcase in pursuit of documents—though her squeals of delight at finding them did amuse more than one bored traveler— and searching again, 12 feet later, for the same documentation. I chalked it up to the distraction of anticipation.

On the bus ride to the hotel, she was agog taking in all the exotic, unfamiliar surroundings, with all the tropical trappings so new to her. I left her to her wonder and was chatting with my husband, when I heard her yell in excitement, “Look at the beautiful exotic bird!!!” I looked up to see a streetlight arching its neck out of a lush grove of trees. “Mom, that’s not a bird.” She blushed and giggled.

When we arrived at the hotel, my mom was in awe as she took in the view of blue sky, blue water, and palm trees from the open-air hotel lobby. I could swear I heard her humming the theme to “Gilligan’s Island.”

After we were settled into the room and my mom had a quick chat with the porter in Spanish (I think she said “gracias” and then counted to cuatro, with a bizarre accent that sounded suspiciously like Speedy Gonzales), we headed to the beach. We were just in time for a gorgeous sunset.

Mom chased around the beach looking for new and “exotic” things. Her unabashed thrill over…everything…was infectious! She chased anything that moved on the sand—she seemed very “taken” with the seaweed. I noticed a beautiful, spiral shell lying in the sand, and reached down to pick it up; I quickly looked around to make sure no one noticed that I was about to pick up bird doo-doo. A thought popped into my head, “MOM! Come look at the beautiful seashell!!” I couldn’t stifle the giggles as my mom reached down to pick it up. Her “child-like glee” morphed into her “disgusted mother.” She didn’t even wait for the rest of my apology before she was down the beach where she cheered on an egg-laying sea turtle.

The next day, we headed for a flea market to buy a few local craft souvenirs (including one wooden bowl painted with fruit); we made our purchases and headed home. Instead of taking a taxi, we decided to enjoy a cultural experience and ride the bus. My husband went to reach for pesos and came up empty. My mom, meaning to allay our fears, yelled, for all to hear, “Don’t worry! I brought ALL my money!” Now instead of worrying about not having enough money for bus fare, my husband was searching for any “banditos” in earshot…

After a week full of first-time and exotic experiences, it was time to board the plane for home. Were my mother’s dreams realized? Did the trip live up to her expectations? Judging from the 4,000 “Thank You’s,” I suspect it did. I can tell you for certain it far surpassed mine! This was going to make a GREAT article! I took out my pen and began…

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port…

***************

I tucked that brightly patterned bowl into a box and brought it home with me; now, it will not only remind me of our trip, but of the opportunity to share those weeks with my mom.

 As I was driving the final miles of my trip home, I realized this “trial” had been an answer to prayer! I had been praying for months that the Lord would show me how I could help my mother, what she needed, how to take care of her and opportunities to honor her in a way I hadn’t before. He had given me 3 weeks to be with her, take care of her, love her, remember 3 generations of Kivels, Williamsons and Bucks and to share precious memories that cement hearts together.

 I am SOO thankful to my Heavenly Father!