Life Lessons (Ligo-Haibun Challenge)

courtesy: Penny Howe

courtesy: Penny Howe

I am twelve or thirteen. I sit across the small card table from my mother. Between us is a chessboard. I marvel at the solid weight of the thing, the chestnut brown squares alternating with creamy off-white. I listen carefully as my mother explains how each piece moves: the pawns, the bishops, knights, and the all-powerful Queen. Their identities feel exotic. I imagine that my mother and I have time-travelled to Medieval Europe. In the years that follow, a handful of times, my mother lets me win.

The exhibition of the famous twelfth century Lewis chessmen arrives at the New York Met, and I am in line to see it. I am in awe of the craftsmanship, and first consider the walrus that contributed the ivory. But then, the whimsical expressions of the figurines make me smile, and suddenly I am transported to that card table all those years ago. I see the concentration and focus in my mother’s blue eyes. I see her sturdy hand toying with my captured knight. I see her place a hand to her face like the figure of the Queen. It’s as if she stands beside me, and I suppose she does. I smell her perfume. I hear her laugh, and I laugh too.

in the museum
white queen advances
captures the night

For the Ligo-Haibun Challenge. Click to read the entries of a very fine group of writers.

Thanks for reading!


16 thoughts on “Life Lessons (Ligo-Haibun Challenge)

    • I had intended the wordplay on night/knight.. I saw the White Queen as her mother, and that she had captured the night as they stood next to each other, in spirit, at the exhibit. Not everything works, and I appreciate the comment. I wasn’t sure myself that it worked, so I’m glad you asked for clarification. Thanks so much, nightlake!

  1. Really enjoyed this. I liked how your mother let you win a few times. Like too how the Lewis pieces evoke your memories of her – her concentration and perfume. Very touching.


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