I'm trying not to be sad. It's one of the firsts in a great many we are suffering through this year. I can't let each and every one drag me down into the depths of despair. I'm trying to focus on the good times and the happy moments, because there are so, so, so many. And because it would really annoy her to know that we all sit around thinking maudlin thoughts every time her name comes up or her memory is summoned by some random object or event.
I know you, my readers, care very little about my mother's presence in my life or her lasting influence on me. I know it doesn't mean much to you that she's gone. To you she is nothing more than some words on a page, a story, an anecdote. I understand that. But to me, she is still a living, breathing, laughing, loving, smiling, scowling, scolding, hugging presence in my life. So I'm writing this to me, because it matters to me, and I need to celebrate her today. Read if you wish, or pass on by and come back another day. I won't hold it against you.
Memory #1: My maiden name is really unfortunate (you wouldn't believe me if I told you) and lent itself beautifully to teasing and torment. In first grade, a kid named John Bonsack teased me incessantly about it. I was bereft and cried daily. My mother decided I should say to him..."John Bonsack has dirty socks." Snort. It still makes me giggle to this day. She thought that would him in his place alright.
Memory #2: One night there was a horrible thunderstorm. My Dad wasn't home and my sisters and I were frightened to death when the power went out, because of course, our trusty nightlight went out as well. It was so profoundly DARK. Mom came into our room, balancing my baby sister on one hip. She was very calm. She told us to just wait a minute and we would see that it wasn't as dark as it seemed. And then, when we realized we really could see, she told us to look out the window and see how beautiful the lightning was and what fantastic patterns it made in the purple black sky. We were so mesmerized, we forgot to be afraid.
Memory #3: For a while my Mom worked as an instructor at the local beauty college. There was some kind of competition for hairstylists and my Mom entered with one of her students, who had hair down past her waist. My Mom actually wove her hair into a basket on top of her head and put real fruit in it. The girl wore an off the shoulder blouse and a skirt with flounced layers and an achingly bright print. She looked so juicy and tropical I could scarcely believe it. Someone took a polaroid of that gravity defying hairdo and I carried it around for months, showing it to anybody and everybody who would deign to look.
Memory#4: Although my mother had a wicked sense of humor, she wasn't given to laughing out loud. So when she did, it was very memorable. Once, after a long hard day on her feet, she came home and collapsed upon our ramshackle sofa. She rarely let us see just how tired she was, but pretense was beyond her that day. We were worried and asked what we could do. Smiling weakly, she asked my sister to go upstairs and change her clothes for her. My sister went. Upon her return, we heard her giggling before she reached the bottom of the stairs. She had dressed herself in my Mom's lounging clothes, a soft comfy shawl collared sweater with brown and white stripes that belted at the waist, a pair of turquoise polyester stretch pants with a perma crease down the front, and pink fuzzy slippers that had seen better days. Of course, they were all miles too big. She stumbled in the slippers as she paraded through the living room. She giggled and snorted as she walked through, pretending not to notice us sitting there watching. My Mom laughed until tears were streaming down her cheeks; not at what my sister had done, but at the fact that she had so effectively cracked herself up that she couldn't stifle her giggles long enough to finish her little stunt. Yeah..that's a good one.
Memory #5: I was caught in flagrante delicto with a high school boyfriend. My mother, determined to do her duty, called me to the inner sanctum (otherwise known as the master bedroom) to deliver her lecture. Unfortunately, my mother could not bring herself to utter the word "sex" and so, she employed the euphemism "that behavior". I fear that her lecture failed to make an appropriate impact on me, because I was completely preoccupied by her fascinating inability to say the actual word. As young adults, my sister and I used to tease her by saying "SEX" as often as we could, just to make her blush. My mother was pretty unflappable and seldom discomfitted, so it was a heady thing for us.
Memory #6: The look on my mother's face when she deplaned in Atlanta to see me holding my newborn infant son; her first grandchild. My mother hated to fly as it combined several of her phobias into one convenient package. So initially, her expression upon stepping through the doorway was brittle and tight. But the moment she saw us, I swear, it was if the very flesh melted on her bones. The look in her eyes, which had been somewhat frantic, became unfocused and dreamy as she breathed a soft. "Ooooooh." She reached for him immediately, and she didn't let him go for a week.
Memory #7: My Mom and Diminutive One, sitting on the front porch of my childhood hom, talking. Just talking. I can still see them, dappled with sunlight, the hair of both heads ruffling in the slight breeze...just talking. That's something Moms sometimes don't have the luxury of doing; just sitting down and talking. And my Mom knew how to talk to Diminutive One. She didn't speak to him like an adult speaking to a child. She spoke to him as if they were friends. It's not her face I remember so vividly in this scenario, but his. He was relaxed and completely at ease. Happy. Content. Just to sit on the porch and talk to his Grandma. That one is good too, but really hurts. Because those talks are a thing of the past now; irrevocably gone.
Now I have to stop, or the maudlin will come creeping back. These are good and perfect moments in my life that I hold on to with all my strength. I write about them so they are always sharp and crisp and so they can't get lost to the mists of time. As long as my words live on, so does she. And so, friends and readers, I fear you will have to endure many such postings from here on out. I am her legacy and I intend to do the job justice.
Happy Birthday Mom. I love you.