Sometimes when I’m walking and listening to a podcast, the words clop along with each step, coming in and out of the path like an autumn leaf. Then other times, like this day, the words are so clear, so near, so understandable, it’s like the slight touch of an old friend, words that you not only recognize, but ones that find their way into that empty space in your heart, and fill it. These were the words. This musician spoke of being at an awards show in the early 2000’s. She was to go onstage after June Carter and Johnny Cash. It was the old fashioned kind of stage, steps on the side that you climbed in the almost darkness. She watched Johnny climb the stairs, slowly, carefully, like an old man. She noticed he looked fragile, frail. And then at the final step, he straightened, chest out, and as he walked into the spotlight he became “Johnny Cash.” He was tall and strong and new every word to every song. He was amazing. He was, well, he was JOHNNY CASH!”
It was just after her first cancer surgery that I was showing at Art in the Park in Alexandria. It was one of my first shows and I was a little nervous, and I was alone. My mother was still weak. Still fragile. On the last day of the show, I looked up from my booth, and there she was, coming down the hill, the sun lit just for her. She was wearing a new off-white outfit (maybe pale yellow) that she had purchased from a store in Las Vegas, just out of her price range, completely within her style. She walked slowly down that green path and my arms cheered above my head – the stage was complete!
My mother has never sung or played guitar, but oh, how she has shined. Darkness has tried to cover her through the years, with divorce, illness, life’s uncertainties, but nothing has been able to put out her light. When she is with me, it sometimes takes a minute, sometimes more, but she climbs the stairs, steps onto the stage, and the crowd in my heart cheers, because she is my MOM! MY MOM! Bigger than any star I could imagine.
Today she is living with cancer. We continue to laugh and shop online and dream of outfits from the Sundance catalog, and what Robert Redford might actually think of us in them. So if you ask me how my mom is doing, I will smile and say, “Well, she’s JOHNNY CASH!