Inheritance

Today my beautiful and beautifully-spirited mother turns 70 years young. She is an inspiration for me for so many things:  how to be a caring human being, a strong and resilient woman, a steadfast and fun parent, a loyal friend, a contributing member of the community. She is a light.

Inheritance

 

My mother floats on her back in the ocean,

arms outstretched, embracing the wide sky.

She has a knack for being fully present.

I watch her and wonder what genes

 

have I inherited from her, what values?

Hopefully bits of her deep capacity for joy,

flexibility amidst change, gratitude for the little

and big things, childlike enthusiasm, 

a bountiful heart, that enviable 

who-cares-what-other-people-think

attitude. She has a rare ability to laugh 

at herself and patience honed from thirty years

teaching plus raising four kids. She values thrift

with a creative spin, recycling gifts for others,

offering to eat the left-over fruit garnish off

someone else’s drink to waste nothing

beautiful. She holds no bitterness.

 

She is the grandparent who gets

down on the floor to play, the one

who rides a bike all over town,

tries paddleboarding because, why not?

she’s never done it, laughing as she falls

into the water. She’ll kick off her shoes

and lie down in a patch of grass

to luxuriate in sunbeams. She sings in her

church choir, enjoys helping others,

plays a spirited game of cribbage.

All this surely the definition

of an enlightened being.

 

Nearby my fifteen–month-old daughter,

another bodhisattva, naps after a busy morning

tottering, chasing dogs and her brother,

digging in the sand, splashing in the sea.

For now, she too has a gift for living

fully in the present. I look at her, wonderingly.

What will she learn from her grandmother?

What will she learn from me?

Sarah Burns