Love in the Open Hand

blossomsMy relationship with my mother could best be described as “difficult” when she was alive. But there was nobody better to have on your side during an emergency that Mary Everett Little-Vance.

“Nobody’s heart is broken, is it?” she might say.  No broken bones. No rain coming through the roof. That we had managed to survive a thing with our hearts intact was what really mattered. Whatever “tragedy” befell us–mostly dealing with worldly security issues–Mama would point to the fact that we hadn’t lost anything truly worth our tears.

(When we were school age, the “crisis” could totally be of our own making but she would defend us first and ask questions later. She might not love what you did but she never stopped loving you.)

To breathe and to love. There’s stuff to want, material stuff, sure, but when you really boil it down, I mean at the end of the day, I think Mama was onto something.

Mary Everett Little-Vance died in February 2014. Not only do I miss her every day but I think I even “get” her a little more every day. I’m sure she’d have something good to say about “regret,” too, so I won’t try to go rearranging the past. I suppose it’s helpful that my mother never became frozen or static in death and continues to evolve as I do.

This verse was among her favorites:

“Love in the open hand, no thing but that,
Ungemmed, unhidden, wishing not to hurt,
As one should bring you cowslips in a hat
Swung from the hand, or apples in her skirt,
I bring to you, calling out as children do:
“Look what I have! — And these are all for you!”

Edna St. Vincent Millay

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Showing 6 comments
  • Ron Vance

    You’re right. She was a remarkable free spirit and did try to find the best in everybody even through many bouts with depression she still had the ability to see the funny and the etherial.

    • Sibley

      Totally agree. Free spirited beautiful mother! So love her and sorry I gave her trouble (my whole life). I was thinking about another quality she had beyond depression–she also had this sort of underlying confidence about her that I didn’t inherit unfortunately. It has to do with privilege, a sense of something… maybe being the youngest? She wasn’t apologetic about the small stuff. She had the Ron Letcher confidence–the right to be where she was and if you cared about appearances, well, that was your problem:) Love Mom. I know you do, too.

  • Eileen Drennen

    Beautiful piece, Sibley. I may have met your mother once or twice but would not go so far as to say I knew her. I loved the heck out of your grandmother tho! And you said something so important and true: our mothers don’t end when they die. Because they live on in us, they continue to evolve for us as we grow in understanding of them. Big love to you xo

    • Sibley

      Thanks for the kind note, Eileen. That means so much coming from you:) On my grandmother, you must know she loved the heck out of you, too. You were among her very favorite talented young women journalists. And she was a person of good taste and discernment. Much love back xxoo

  • Ellen Howle

    Your mother was so loving and funny! Our trip together is etched in my memory as one of the most fun! “Smarty had a party, but nobody came.” (She said that after every sarcastic remake I made…and there were plenty. 🤐) She made that trip fun and she and my mother connected in a special way. They were up at all hours of the night, just talking and laughing. It is a good memory. ❤️

    • Sibley

      You guys were so funny together! Like you, she very much enjoyed any opportunity to misbehave:) Thank you for the sweet note, LN!

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