A Walk Through the Woods

By: Kelsey Barcomb

Ivy stood on the edge of the woods, peering in through blurred vision. Using both hands, she gripped the letter her mother had sent to her and read it again as tears pierced tiny holes in the flimsy paper.

Her mother’s loopy cursive haunted Ivy’s mind and took over her thoughts…

“I wish I could see you again someday. But I have learned to accept that you’ll never come back here.”

In one fluid motion, Ivy balled the letter up and threw it into a nearby creek. She then took a deep breath and made her way into the woods.

Hours passed as Ivy walked through the woods. With nothing but the clothes on her back and the water bottle clipped to her belt loop, she kept on going. She kept going past the tiny, beady-eyed creatures; past the owl hooting from within a tree stump; past the fish jumping in the creek. She kept going despite the self-doubt, sadness, and fear, even as they fought to overcome her.

Ivy was determined to prove her mother wrong.

Suddenly she was brought back to a childhood memory. Whereas in present time she was stepping over roots and pushing past overgrown branches, in her mind she was five-years-old and wearing a matching mommy-and-me ensemble: blue jean overalls and a pink turtleneck. In her mind, she was young again, and so was her mother, and everything sparkled just as happily as they had lived. Her mother held her up high and kissed her cheeks and the sweet aroma of her mother’s perfume – roses and spice – had become the scent of safety and love that Ivy could recognize anywhere, even today.

How badly Ivy wished she could smell her mother’s perfume here in these damp and cold woods. How badly she wished she could be small again so her mother could hold her.

Another memory rushed in, wiping the old one out. In this memory, Ivy was a fifteen-year-old who wore heavy eye-liner and shut herself away from her mother. Truth be told, her mother shut Ivy out as well. The world was no longer sparkly or joyful.

How badly Ivy wished she could go back in time and slap herself out of that phase. How badly she ached for her younger self to tell her mom, “I’m hurting. I just need you to know that it’s not because of you.”

Farther and farther into the woods she traveled. Memories came rushing in and out likes waves. Memories of arguments and silence that fell into months. Memories of phone calls unanswered on both sides. Memories upon memories of laughter and joy and roses and spice; of reconciliation and an unbreakable bond; of comfort and safety and the love between a mother and her only daughter. Then, the memories stopped.

How long had it been since Ivy had been here in these woods? She still knew the path home by heart, even despite the overgrown bushes and roots. Ivy tried her hardest to count the years since she’d returned….three….seven….ten?

She trembled and hugged herself at the realization that it had been ten years since she’d seen her mother’s smile. Ten years since she’d stepped foot in her mother’s house.

The woods eventually gave way to a clearing at the top of a hill, which overlooked the small town Ivy’s mother had raised her in. Ivy stood at the top of the hill admiring the sunset over her tiny childhood town, feeling accomplished and pleased and also quite shameful…

…for her walk through the woods took merely hours, yet it had taken her ten years to do it.

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