The image above is one of my LifeSlices – a piece of my life rendered as a small collage. My LifeSlices are usually made of polymer clay, wood, or mica, with holes at the top which can then be threaded onto a pole, in chronological order from oldest (bottom) to newest (top) to form my LifeCore (see images below). Call it my weird version of scrap-booking. (For more slices see https://innergeographiesblog.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=701&action=edit)
The following occurred in 1991 as I was leaving Utah to pursue my Ph.D. in Georgia. This memory exemplifies one of the things that my grandmother was referring to when she visited me in a dream in 2006 (see: https://innergeographiesblog.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1803&action=edit). These apron strings are part of my Mormon life that are worth keeping. Thanks Mom. (Thanks also to my cousin Ken for editing this piece).
I finally relax into the window seat of aisle 4 when we rise above the cloud bank. A loud ding signals that the fasten seatbelt sign has been turned off, so I grab the box from my carry-on. My legs are already starting to cramp; I won’t have an aisle to stretch them in, but I will be able see the landscape unfold all the way to Georgia. The Great Salt Lake, on my right, fades into a bluish line as the plane turns east over the grey scallops of the Wasatch mountains.
This time landscape can wait. I’ve seen most of this familiar terrain in slides and overheads or from geology field trip vans anyway. Textbook pictures with textbook explanations – faults and folds and formations. I wonder what Georgia will be like. Flat like Florida? I hope not. Living in Florida was like living in a salad bowl – overhead vegetation broken only by occasional slices of sky. Even if the terrain is flat and overgrown, the prospect of studying caves in my graduate work trumps any possible dread of claustrophobia.
The white gift box from ZCMI is carefully bound by white satin ribbons tied in a bow. All that white is probably an echo of the Mormon poem about “My Three White Dresses” – the “name and a blessing” dress that girls wear as babies when first presented to the congregation, the baptismal dress worn at the age of eight when a child makes her first covenants with God, and the wedding dress that every Mormon woman hopes for. So far I’m two dresses for three. This box was the last thing my mom pressed into my hands before I boarded the plane. “Open it in the air dear.”
I slide the ribbons aside to free the lid and open the box. Inside are two white linen straps, a $100 bill, and a note. “Dear Sweetheart: Well, enclosed you will find those apron strings you have longed for for so long. I can cut them but not my heart strings. You’re my daughter, my sister and a special friend who I have loved each day with all my heart. Have a great new adventure – but remember who you are – a daughter of God and of Al and Lois. You’ll always have a home with us. Best adventure. Go with our love and faith. Mom xoxo”
Sometimes, against all odds, a parent gets it perfectly right.
What I don’t know then, suspended in flight, silent tears adding humidity to the dry air, is that severing those strings will also unravel my Mormon life. That I will choose to “forget who I am,” and that “home” is not always something you can go back to – at least not in Utah.
Floating between Utah Brown Soil and Georgia Red Clay layers, ca. 1991