It was a sunny day in July the last time I saw my mother. Wearing her most favorite, most beautiful going-on-a-date-with-Daddy dress, she looked peaceful and lost in a dream.
At least, that’s how five year old me saw her. 92-year old me sees now that she was dead, taken from me young and full of promise, taken from my father before they even had a chance to see their second child. When I was a whimsical, fairy-like five year old, she was angelic in her cherry casket, adorned with flowers and photos of my father and I. But, even in my child’s heart, I knew that she was leaving me that day and I longed to climb in with her, to feel her skin and the warmth I thought it would bring. What I didn’t know was that the warmth she provided me with was gone, taken from me precisely 5 days before on another sunny July day that ruined all sunny July days for me into eternity.
“Oh, come on Jessie! The lake is calling me, Val can hear it, can’t you my little ladybug?” My mother, tall and beautiful and incredible twirled over to me in our kitchen, her curly brown hair bouncing against her taut shoulders. I smiled and grabbed her hands, twirling with her to the sound of Frank Sinatra’s Someone to Watch Over Me in the background. The year was 1986, and she was glorious.
“Charlotte, the answer is no!” my father’s insistent if not lighthearted voice floated down from his upstairs office, and my mother gave me a mischievous grin.
“Fine then, stay up there! Val and I are going to go to the lake and not only that, we are going to stop at the Pot Belly Deli and buy sandwiches.” She pressed her shhh finger to her lips and I giggled, returning the gesture.
Suddenly, there was a thudding above our heads and my father, a 6’5 man of immense strength and stature, came barreling down the stairs as if his ass were on fire. “OH?” He yelled before scooping up my hysterical mother and swinging her around. “MY girls are going to have fun without me? UnTHINKable!” he chortled. He gently set my mother’s feet to the ground and gave her a gentle kiss on the forehead. “Give me five minutes my loves, and I’ll escape this place so we can go on a grand adventure.” He knelt down and gave me a raspberry on my forehead, then vaulted up the stairs as my mother clapped her hands together.
“Today is going to be an incredible day, Valkyrie!”
Let’s get the elephant under control here. My mother, in her drug-induced glory, had the presence of mind to forget that she had intended to name me Jessica, a perfectly normal name and a play on my father’s name. No, Jessica Anne did not come out of her mouth after she had endured 17 hours of grueling labor only to give birth to a child with a bum heart-when she finally saw me, still under the influence of pain killers after my little heart had been repaired, a platinum haired nurse smiled at her and said, “darlin’, what will this little fighter’s name be?” She looked deep into my eyes, and she told me I saw something deep within you.
“Valkyrie. Valkyrie Alexandria Flynn is her name.” my mother whispered to the nurse firmly. The nurse, surprised, began to write but then picked up the pen from the paper. “Erm…how do you spell that, Mrs. Flynn?” she had asked.
My mother loved to tell that story. “Valkyrie, the warrior who decides who is slain and who survives. You decided that day that you would stand at the gates of Valhalla and you would not be afraid.” Every time she tells it, my father breaks into a hysterical laugh. “WHAT?” she asks, indignant.
“Well…it’s just…” he would wipe away the tears, laughing still, “gates of Valhalla? That was your vagina sweetheart, not the fucking portal to Norse Neverland.” She always slapped him for that.
That’s how my parents were. My mother, born and raised in Brooklyn, was lean and beautiful. She positively radiated a sort of hopeful optimism and excitement into the world around her. She was a passionate writer-I suppose that’s where I got my love for it. She loved to tell me fantastic stories as we lay on an old, blue plaid blanket she had stolen from my grandfather. We would walk out into the woods and lay in a sunny field next to a lazy creek. She would pick golden flowers and weave them into my short hair, sometimes singing her stories to me instead of telling them in her normal, soothing voice.
My father was also tall, but he was raised in the outskirts of a small town in Upstate New York named Greenfield Center. He had worked hard all of his life, and when I was five, decided to pursue his dream of fine furniture building. He was incredible; his pieces were one of a kind and so well crafted that people came from all over the country to buy his work. His creativity and artistry shone in the brilliant finishes of his coffee tables, the exquisitely shaped legs of his dining room sets and the soft curves of his rocking chairs.
this is just an excerpt from the first chapter of Valkyrie and Grey-check back for more soon!