In Death, You Live Forever
“Can you get me a glass of water?” my mother whispered in a hoarse voice. I nodded and quickly escaped the dimly lit bedroom to fetch my mother a glass of water from the kitchen. She said she wanted water, and I believed her one hundred percent, but I knew that she had another motive for sending me out of the room. She wanted to speak to her friend, Angelo, in private. I knew she would be talking to him about her condition, but that’s as much as I could conclude without her telling me directly, seeing as I was only five years old. “Here you go,” I said softly, handing my mother her glass of water. “Thank you,” she whispered in reply, her fragile, pale white hand unsteadily taking the glass from me. My mother was sick. She had pneumonia, a very severe case. Her immune system had already been weak for a long time, and was having a hard time fighting off the illness. There were several loud knocks on our front door. Angelo opened the door and let in a series of paramedics carrying medical equipment of all types, the first two, rolling in a stretcher. This, I had not been expecting.
She waved the stretcher away and said she could walk. One of the paramedics and Angelo each had one of her arms draped around their neck as they helped her walk to the back of the ambulance that was waiting at the curb outside. Her faded, black, floral print night gown swayed slightly as she struggled to slowly move forward, one small step at a time. Her sickly pale skin, covered in sweat, glistened in the last rays of the setting sun. That was the last time I saw my mother.
I don’t have very many memories of my short time spent with her, but one of my most fond memories is the first Christmas I remember having. My mom always made sure I had plenty of gifts on my birthdays and holidays. I vaguely remember sitting cross legged on the light brown, shaggy carpet near a very green tree decorated with ornaments, multicolored lights and shimmering garland that was standing near a plain white wall. “Here you go sweetie, Merry Christmas!” my mother said lovingly, a brilliant smile lighting up her beautiful face. The Christmas lights decorating the tree reflected off of her pale skin, her ling, straight, dark brown hair that floated around her as she leaned forward to hand me a bundle of gifts. Happiness and love shone in her glistening green eyes. I stared at my mother lovingly for a moment.
She was the only person I had in the world, the only person that I knew, and I loved her unconditionally. I slowly unwrapped the shiny, red plastic bag holding my bundle of presents my loving mother had worked so hard to get me. The first thing my tiny, pale hand pulled out was a rectangular box with a beautiful Barbie standing inside of it. Her wavy, synthetic blonde hair flowed just past the shoulders of her space suit, accenting her bright blue eyes. “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you so much it’s the exact one I wanted! Thank you so much mom!” I exclaimed as I leaped into her arms, locking my arms around her neck, never wanting to let go. “I know, that’s just why I got it for you! There’s more to your Christmas present, you know! Go look,” she said with a smile, obviously enjoying my reaction of elation. I pulled out a shiny, pink, hardcover book with a picture of my astronaut Barbie on the front cover. My hazel eyes widened in excitement. “Hey that’s my Barbie!” I said excitedly.
“Yep! That’s a book that tells you the whole story of your Barbie and her job as an astronaut!” my mother told me, sharing my excitement. “Will you help me read it?” I pleaded.
“Of course, let’s go sit on the couch,” she looked down at me with a smile. She picked up my new favorite Barbie and the matching book that had her lovely picture on the front and carried them both to the couch. “Astronaut Barbie,” my mother started to read as I slid onto the couch, sitting as close to her as I possibly could while I looked at the strange, yet somewhat familiar characters on the cover of my Barbie’s book. That was the first time I had ever felt affection for someone or something other than my mom. As my mother’s soothing voice carefully read each word aloud, my eyes tried to keep up, tried to make sense of the markings on each page that had a picture of my gorgeous Barbie on it, standing in a different pose, in a different scene, each time. “Wait!” I shouted. “What’s that word say right there?” I asked, perplexed by this series of figures that I had never before encountered. “That says rocket. It’s kind of like a car that Barbie uses to go to outer space, except, it flies straight up instead of on a road!” she explained patiently. “Oh.. Okay, can I try?” I asked, gesturing that I wanted to hold the book and attempt to read the story to my mother, since she had been kind enough to get me the lovely book in the first place! “Of course!” gladly surrendering the book to my miniature fingers, my mother shifted on the couch.
And I read the story of my astronaut Barbie. I stumbled on almost every single word even though it was one of the most books ever to exist, I was not yet completely familiar with bigger words such as, “rocket,” nor was I familiar with the way these words were put together on a page such as this. It was extraordinary. The story was so interesting, the words sloppily fumbled from my lips of course, but once they were out, the pictures that stained the pages, lying underneath the words, they started to make sense. They were telling me a story, and I was seeing it. It was like having a movie playing inside of my head. This movie was created by the words on the pages I kept turning. I didn’t want the movie to end. I absolutely adored reading that book with my mother. Learning the history of my new friend, where she came from, what she did, how she ended up becoming an astronaut and flying into outer space, and reading about the amazing adventures she went on because she was an astronaut, all of this information was enchanting. The fact that I had learned all of this new information about my Barbie by reading it, and pretty much getting this information for myself, by myself, it made me proud. I was proud of myself and I felt accomplished! By the look on my mother’s face, I could tell that she, too, was proud of me and had felt that I had achieved a great accomplishment! Looking back on that memory I hold so dear to me, it has much more meaning to me than just your average “happy memory of a Christmas holiday,” it was a moment in which my mother really showed her love for me. It was a moment in which she changed my life forever. She had created my relationship with books; she had shown me an entirely new world that could only be unlocked with my very own eyes.
These books, these stories, these pages, they were locked treasure chests. If I wanted to open them and get to the bountiful loot that lay inside, I need only to use mine own eyes as keys to unlock such chests. It was such a simple thing, yet it had such an amazing, powerful effect on me. It changed my world. We hadn’t known it at the time, but we had sort of started a tradition. It was a tradition that was short lived, due to the tragically, unexpected passing of my mother, but it was a lovely tradition that I had cherished every time we had participated in it. Since that Christmas, every single time my mother had gotten me a Barbie doll, she had also gotten me the Barbie’s matching book that went with whatever specific doll she had gotten me at the time. I had gotten a total of five different Barbies, each with their own matching book. Thanks to my mother’s love, patience, and praise, I started reading at a very young age and for many years throughout school, including elementary, junior high, and high school, I had always been at an advanced, higher reading level than most of my classmates and other students that were my age. I still have each and every one of my special Barbie books to this day as a reminder of where my love for books and my craving for knowledge originated.