My mother never promised life would be easy. There’s a picture of her on a boat with a red bandana on her head, the wind blowing back her hair and she’s laughing. My early, early childhood was a beautiful thing. Yellow light through my mother’s kitchen windows, listening to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Cat Stevens, Eddie Rabbit. I remember dancing. I remember my mother, how she bloomed. I wanted to be like her. Days at the farmhouse out on the dusty country road, the pink petals of the apple trees falling on the bright green grass, a plum tree, tractors, the pig out back, uncles and aunts and cousins everywhere, dirty, some drinking, music playing. Mama kept us in church. Daddy was shy and sweet. Grandpa Leo watched the humming birds from his window in the kitchen. Grandma Helen with her apron on. Playing and singing on the old organ with her. Jelly jars full of lilacs. Lightning bugs in jars. Riding big wheels. My heart was young then. We were never promised anything, and I think that kept us strong for the years that would follow. Riding in the old dirty car with my dad, he was probably drinking, sitting up front with Nikki and I was by the door when it flew open. I remember a whir of green and dirt. Nikki held me in. Not a scary moment. Nothing was scary back then. Everything is warm. My daddy’s hands holding me. My mother cleaning my cheeks, keeping a tight, clean house. We were so poor and never knew it. Life was beautiful. Things don’t always turn out the way we planned–life is hard. It’s damn hard.