They called her “Old Mother” in the honorific. She sat alone most days, cataracts fuzzing her pupils. She’d sit in the dark, reclined in her EZ Chair, waiting for the Lord to take her.
“Old Mother,” they would say, “what wisdom do you have for us today?”
Each day, she would tell them a story about her life. Whether the story had a moral or not was up to them. Today, a 5-year-old named Paku came to visit here.
“Old Mother,” he said, “I have a question.”
She sat there, staring at nothing, staring the film over her eyes.
“Who was your mother? Who created you?”
Old Mother turned her head and stared at the boy. He swallowed his fear in a big lump. His parents said that she wasn’t a witch, so she must not be. He stood his ground.
“Who made you, Old Mother? Didn’t you come from somewhere?”
She looked away, back toward the wall. “If you are asking who my mother is, I never knew her. If you are asking who my creator is, I cannot tell you that, either.”
Her dry face crackled into a smile. “Do you remember the day you were born?”
Paku tried with all of his might. He could not remember. He shook his head, then remembered Old Mother couldn’t see him. “No, Old Mother. I cannot remember.”
“Nobody does. How can we know our creator, then?”
“I guess maybe we don’t.”
“Child, I don’t remember my mother. Not even my creator. Even so, child, do you know what I did when I was young?”
Paku got excited. “What did you do, Old Mother?”
“I made every woman my mother. I learned sewing and song from the seamstresses. I learned dignity and humility from the innkeepers. I learned shame and independence from the prostitutes.”
“You must have learned a lot,” Paku said.
“I kept my mind open. And my heart. You are young, still, child. Soak in all that you can. I am old. I have nothing to learn any more, only stories to tell.”
Paku wanted to ask so much, but he could see in her eyes that she was tired and needed to sleep. He wondered about her words, about growing old. Though he forgot about it when he went to play kickball with his friends, her words always stayed in the back of his mind.