If the word “journalist” makes you think of an aggressive, cynical person, let me introduce you to someone who’s completely the opposite. Taylor Smith is an extraordinary young woman who aspires to tell people’s stories (their challenges, triumphs, hobbies and occupations) and who breaks down barriers in the process, through showing genuine interest in her subjects, young and old.
I first became aware of Taylor when she submitted a summer internship application to The Oregonian. She didn’t have quite enough experience to be competitive, but I remembered the essay she wrote as a young college student, an only child, striving to find her way in the world after losing her mother at 13 to ovarian cancer and then her father at 18, a few weeks before high school graduation and Rose Festival coronation. (Her peers at St. Mary’s Academy had chosen her to represent them on Portland’s Rose Festival Court in 2008.)
Taylor applied again and was selected for a one-year internship. When she was assigned to write feature stories for the Hillsboro Argus, we became colleagues. She recently left us to pursue other interests but during that year in Hillsboro I was mightily impressed by Taylor’s radiant personality, her gift for putting people at ease and her unwavering faith. With her permission, I’m republishing a piece she recently posted on her own blog (taylorstaste.org) about her mom: Karen Lynn Flego Smith.
Says Taylor: “I wrote this when I was living in Italy in the spring of 2011 – a time when I have never felt more healthy and also the first time in seven years when I let myself remember her, miss her, and realize that there will be a day when I will see her again.”
“WHEN WE WALK”
5’10”, blonde, red-lipstick-wearing woman.
Walk with me. Trade shoes with me. Take a sip of my coffee when I’m not looking. Tell me what you were like when you were twenty, about your first crush, the time you drank Champagne from one of your gold-sequined high heels.
Let me tell you a secret. Can I sneak into your room tonight and crawl under the covers with you?
People tell me I look like you. Every so often, someone calls me Karen instead of Taylor. It makes me smile, but I’m no you. I’m me. I’m the girl who loves to smile, who wets her pants when she laughs too hard, who misses her mom.
No grief, sorrow or mourning anymore. It’s no miracle, it’s just the way you raised me – to see joy in every sunrise, life in every breath and possibility in every tomorrow. It’s not optimism; it’s the way the world was meant to be experienced. You told me that. I remember it clearly.
I remember a lot of things, but it’s you that is hard to recall sometimes. Your image is fuzzy, right around the corners of your lips and the white tips of your fingernails. I can remember the exact address of the San Diego Zoo, the Pythagorean theorem, the names of my second cousins, but I can’t quite recall the sound of your voice. I desperately want to, but it’s hard.
It’s not death that’s hard. It’s not the photos of you that bring tears to my eyes. What hurts is that there are days when I want to walk with you, Mom, days when I want to look into your eyes and see that we would almost be a mirror image of each other.
I have this dream that keeps fluttering through my mind. It’s just you and me in the middle of the sidewalk, the breeze gently blowing through our hair. You glance at me, lean over, and whisper in my ear, “I’m proud of you, Tails.”
What you don’t realize, Mom, is that it is I who am proud of you. Proud to know the years you spent fighting to stay alive, proud to speak with those who remember your kindness, proud to say that I am your daughter, and that you left me on earth with those who would be kind enough to love me as if I were their own. There is such joy in knowing that you and God had planned that for me all along, even if my story was to be woven with loss at an early age.
There might be a time when I forget what your shoe size was, your favorite color or what type of car you drove, but no amount of time can ever cause me to forget that I love you and that I look forward to seeing you again and taking that walk – a walk I long to remember.