When I was a little girl, my older sister Martha-Jean had an emerald birthstone ring. I was terribly jealous, and whenever I got the chance, I would sneak it from her dresser to try on my own finger. I loved to hold it very close to my eye and peer deeply into its faceted stone, as if the truths of time would be revealed within the shimmering green. Then, knowing that I would never own it, I returned it to its hiding spot, hopeful that on another day, I might again borrow a short moment to enjoy its brilliance.
Today was an emerald kind of day. I drove through the late May sunlight, enveloped by new grass and spring leaves. The foliage on each side of the road was shiny and lush, and the color of the world was as deep a green as the Emerald City. I thought of how much I missed this verdant world when I lived in the Southwest.
In 1978, I was a VISTA volunteer in Boise, Idaho. In the whirlwind of that summer, my husband and I drove across the country twice, and for a brief time, lived in Arizona. I was awed by the Southwest, with its pink and yellow deserts. The rock formations left me breathless, the sunsets more brilliant than I had ever seen. But the sky blazed with unrelenting heat and the clay earth was dry, harsh, and unforgiving. I missed the quiet coolness of a lawn beneath my bare feet, and I longed for the shade of the silver maple tree in my parent’s back yard.
To me, summer was green. It was delicate ferns that grew between the tree trunks in the woods behind Bridge Street. It was long beans and elephant leaves that hung from the catalpa tree on the side yard. It was coleus that spread like Victorian tapestries, and tall grass that tasted like childhood when you chewed the tender end of the stem. It was the sweet aroma of hay on a hot August afternoon, and the tickle of long blades of grass as you searched by flashlight for night crawlers bathing in the evening dew. It was the smell of thunderstorms that ripped the sky open and wash the heat of the day down the gutters, leaving the world fresh and cool and green again.
As I drove this afternoon, I glanced at my daughter Abby, who was sitting next to me. Her birthstone is also an emerald, which is as it should be, for she is new, and fresh, and full of life like the leaves on the trees that dapple the highway. She brings renewal to the refugees with whom she works. Like the shade of new leaves, she brings relief from the heat of war and the glare of persecution. Her green eyes are deep emerald pools, like springs that are surrounded by carpets of moss. She is the cool refreshment of promise and hope.
Alas, summer in New England is not long to enjoy. In a few short months, the green of summer in New England will fade and give way to the brilliance of autumn’s rusts, crimsons and golds. Much the same way, my time with my daughter is too short. Abby’s life has its own path, and she will have to travel where it leads. Like my sister’s ring, I must let go, for she is not mine to keep. But for now, I will cling to the moments I have with her, where the world is fresh, lush and deeply, divinely emerald green.