Double Take

You say you will love me
If I have to go
You’ll be thinking of me
Somehow I will know…


A Swift Current Double Take whenever i see an owl, I see her

Halfway Through the Wood… Photo by Sylvia Ferrell-Jones

A quiet winter Sunday–

a charming photo on Facebook—

an owl peaks out from a tree.

I close my eyes

take in my breath


I want to thank my friend for

this fleeting moment—

this unexpected gift


“my mom LOVED owls”

is all I can muster.

I don’t add

her small collection of ceramic owls

was the first thing you saw

as you walked in the door of our childhood home;

or that my sister and I wore

owl pendants on our lapels

at the funeral.

And now

owls are


pillows and wallpaper and tshirts and stickers and notecards and calendars and ornaments and

A Swift Current wherever I go, I see owls

Oh My…Radish Moon creations by Sarah Nicholas Williams


And every single time,

I see her–

like a spark,

catching me off guard;




And it’s not only the owls;

–that would be too easy—

but again and again

just when I least expect it,

–there she is!–

tracing the shadows

just out of reach.

My eyes fall on a solitary figure

a half block away;

her coat–

her gait–

her hair!

I quicken my pace

but just before I call out

she turns her head.

Well, of course-

of course,

I knew that!

(you didn’t really think I’d call out, did you?)

But just for that instant…that flash of an instant…

(thank God I didn’t call out!)

A woman sits next to me in the theater;

she smiles, adjusts her wrap, studies the program

while her perfume takes me to your room

I sit on your bed feel your nervous tension my excitement too as you put on your party dress the babysitter arrives my chicken delight too my face nestled against your cool neck your sparkling earrings my goodnight kiss I promise to be good you look so pretty mama so very pretty please

don’t leave!

I duck into a diner–

a quick bite–

tuna fish salad on wheat toast please and yes, I want the potato chips;

there’s a catch in my throat

but this time I knew you were coming.

I can never order a tuna fish salad sandwich (on wheat toast)

without a catch in my throat

we pile into a booth at DuPars near the Broadway Wilshire or Hody’s at Hollywood & Vine back to school shopping I’m giddy your feet hurt we’re starving! and yes we want the potato chips and maybe even a root beer float…!

And now, mama,

my feet hurt too.

And maybe I understand, if only just a little, what it was like for you.

And how I never told you

all I meant to say.

I stare at the table;

the waitress sets down my plate

you need anything else, hon?

A woman walks down the street;

her perfume

her coat

her hair–

she turns away;

I smile.

Up the block

across the table

in the next seat

an owl peaks out from a tree.

You’ve been gone four years, mama

but you do not fade.

You ease my longing

dampen my sorrow

shelter me.

I still cry, mama

but not as much;

after all

how can I be sad

when you’re


just one




A Swift Current  Double Take I see owls everywhere!

Walking Down Lex…Photo by Hallie Swift


Opening quote from the song “Things We Said Today” words & music by John Lennon & Paul McCartney Copyright © 1964 Northern Songs All Rights Reserved International Copyright Secured

Halfway Through the Wood photo by Sylvia Ferrell-Jones, copyright Sylvia Ferrell-Jones, all rights reserved. Used by permission. I entitled the photo with a not-so-vague reference to Stephen Sondheim’s No One Is Alone from Into the Woods…the song was the impetus for this essay.

Owl pillows and t-shirts are part of a line of products by illustrator Sarah Nicholas Williams, Radish Moon, all rights reserved. Used by permission. To view the magical Radish Moon creations (drawings and dishes and dolls, oh my!) see

And to readers who love the artist Vuillard as much I do, rest assured that I looked…but I don’t think he painted owls, or at least I couldn’t find one!


19 thoughts on “Double Take

    • I so appreciate your comment…and for me the validation from all the comments that we all encounter these fleeting yet stunning reminders. A friend today told me that, 13 years after her mom’s death, she still has those sudden startling moments. I think it is a phenomenon that few people talk about. But I am happy it exists! Thank you, H

    • Thank you. If I remember correctly, a long time ago I told you about my difficulty in ordering a tuna salad sandwich, and you responded…”you must write about it…!”

      And now, thanks to you, I have…

  1. Hallie this is so beautifully written and I felt every word. After I read every one of your posts, it makes me think about my own life and my mother who now is approaching 92 years old.
    I value every installment you have made here on A Swift Current! Thank you.

    • If my writing makes you think about your life–and your mom’s–that is just about the highest compliment I can receive! I know–for me–the process of writing these posts helps me understand what transpired…and gets me to a place of acceptance and even joy. The NY Times recently had an article about just this topic…about how writing can lead to happiness…

      And so I recommend, even if you think you can’t write, you have a story to tell…and it can lead you to places you can only imagine…it doesn’t have to be for anyone’s eyes but your own…

      As always, your support of my efforts has lifted me up…

      Thank you

    • Dear Max, You captured the essence with the words hopeful and sad, which might seem like opposing thoughts but in fact can and do peacefully co-exist.

      I appreciate your reading my efforts and your comment as you go through what is, in my experience, one of the singular most defining periods of your life. If those words sound overly dramatic, so be it. I chose the subtitle to my writing, Letting Your Parents Go, as an ironic statement, because it is a struggle to get beyond the consuming grief, and in fact–even when you do–I believe parents imbue one’s life, both in the big picture and day-to-day, in ways we never anticipate. Clearly that is part of the message of the last essay.

      And yes, it is both sad, and hopeful…

      When I received your message, I had escaped the icy cold NY winter for the sun of Arizona, where my husband and I enjoyed Spring Training baseball. And there is a metaphor there, I think. Whenever teams do well in the beginning in the Spring and early summer, my husband always says, “it’s a long season…”

      And I think those words resonate for what you are experiencing now; don’t expect to adjust or even begin to understand it now…it’s a long season, and will continue to unfold. One of the best things someone said to me in the days following my mom’s death was this: Be kind to yourself. It might sound like a cliché, but it gave me permission to be who I needed to be… to not try to move forward too quickly…to absorb everything going on inside and around me. And eventually it led to this writing, which has helped far more than anything…

      Thank you for reading A Swift Current, Hallie

  2. As always,wonderful and brings back so many memories that I feel every week and treasure. I tried sending you an e-mail but it came back. Miss talking to you. Your writing only gets better and better. I look forward to every post.

    • Thank you. One of the reasons I write is I learn other people are going through the same thing, though we seldom talk about it. I can’t tell you how many people tell me they have mistaken people on the street for their loved ones (deceased loved ones) if only for that flash of a second. It is reassuring that we have similar experiences, and our memories propel us forward…

      I am not sure why email didn’t work…

      Thank you for your comments, and continued support…I am tackling these issues at a slower pace…but I am still full of ideas…

      Cheers, H

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