The latch creaks gently as I push open the gate. In front of me, a small potting shed covered with wild roses blocks my view. But I already know by heart what lies beyond. And sure enough, as I walk around the corner of the shed, the sight of a familiar garden greets my eyes.
But it isn't just any garden, it's my garden. Even though anyone can come here, it has always seemed to belong just to me. It has been my sanctuary in times of sadness and my inspiration in times of joy. But most of all, it has always been somewhere where time seems to melt away: where there are no math papers due, no people to be polite to, no mothers to get into fights with.
Everywhere I look, a perfect tapestry of color and shape greets my eyes. Here, perfect rays of sunlight reach down long fingers to gently caress the silvery leaves of a grove of aspen trees. There, a vibrant butterfly gently alights on the lip of a delicate blue-and-gold flower, slowly fanning its wings, anticipating its first sip of nectar.
I breathe in deeply, inhaling the mingled scents of rose and hibiscus. Slowly, I can feel the anger coiled tightly around my heart loosen its grip. The memory of my most recent fight with my mother starts to fade.
For the past few years, our fights have become more and more frequent. Sometimes I feel like just flinging open the front door and running away. Usually I resort only to slamming the door. This time was just one time too many, that's all. I couldn't face her anymore. I had finally opened that door and left.
At first, my intention was to leave and never return. But now I wasn't so sure. The garden was having its usual effect on me: putting the jumbled thoughts in my head back into place, sorting out the tangled knot of anger and confusion I felt inside. No matter, I thought. I won't let myself think about that right now.
As I venture deeper and deeper into this garden of miracles, I come to a small bridge adorned with horsetails on either side. Instantly I am transported back in time to when I was six.
My Mama and I walk hand-in-hand over this very bridge.
"Wait, Mama!" I say, bending over. "I want to see the fishies!"
Mama lies down on the rough wooden planks next to me, and we both spend the next ten minutes immersed in the activities of the fish. When we sit up again, slightly stiff and sore, Mama reaches out and pulls a horsetail toward her.
"Look!" she says with as much excitement as if she were the one being shown this small miracle for the first time. Gently, she pries the sections apart and lays them on the wet ground next to her.
Carefully, she picks up each piece and fits them together again. I can feel my eyes bugging out of my head!
After a few minutes of labor, she holds up the horsetail exactly as it had been before she picked it.
"Ta da!" she exclaims proudly.
As my memory fades, I can feel my eyes start to swim with unshed tears. Even though sometimes I feel as though I hate her, I know that inside I will always really love her. Even though sometimes I want to slap her, I know that inside she will always be that same Mama who showed me the horsetails, all those years ago; and that I will always be the same little girl who clung to her hand and exclaimed over the fishies' activities.
For better or worse, she is my Mama, and I love her.