Friday, April 25, 2014

Thinking about my mom today, her birthday.

Today is my mother's birthday. If she were alive, she'd be 66 years old. And she'd hate every minute of it. I've been thinking of  my mother often over the last few months. Missing her lately, more than I have in the entire almost 8 years she's been gone. I don't know why now. It doesn't even matter. I just miss her and I feel like a part of me is hollow.

My mother... growing up she always fixed a meal and we gathered around the dining room table to eat. Looking back now I always wondered when she found time to eat herself, making sure we kids ate, used table manners, asking us questions about our child lives- school, friends, the neighborhood gossip, about our chore lists she left us, our lessons... and later about school, our friends, our jobs... She always seemed interested in what we had to say. Maybe she worked that day. Maybe it was her day off-- which, of course, involved staying home and cleaning, cooking or doing laundry.

Chore lists. I swear to this day the reason I'm the list maker I am is because she was a list maker- lists of things to do when we got home from school, list of emergency phone numbers, grocery lists, chore lists... the woman was a list maker for us all, dad included. I can picture her perfect cursive on the page, some cutesy note paper, numbered items down the page. Oh, nothing extravagant or hard. We were hardly house servants but as children that list felt so long. But usually it was things like "set table", "empty dishwasher", pick up all of your personal belongings downstairs and put them away in your room". Those lists kept us kids out of trouble in the 45 minutes we spend alone after school. It taught us organization. It gave us direction. All skills that I carried with me into adulthood, which is mostly certainly a gift from my mother.

Mom wasn't necessarily what one might called an educated woman, an intellectual but she was so smart. She read everything, it seemed. I can't remember a time when she wasn't in the middle of reading a book and there was always a collection of magazines arriving at our house that she read. My earliest childhood memory is of her taking me to the library and indulging my need to get piles of books, until I was old enough to go myself. And my mom had the talent of making her children, me, feel special. And that is better than any secondary education one could ever have.

Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, while isn't that long ago, was still my childhood. We lived in a big, old, drafty house, during the Carter administration, with high inflation. You know, we were probably poor but we kids never wanted for anything. We had new school clothes and shoes each fall. We had presents for our birthdays and Christmases. We had well rounded meals. I had a new Easter dress each year. We always went on field trips for school. Now I know how much both of my parents sacrificed during those years so my brother and I didn't have to. My parents never had a new car, mom didn't have a new Easter dress or take a vacation. Kids growing up never see what their parents didn't have so they could have- and that was my mother.

For a long time I was mad at her for dying. Who was going to be my mom? How was I going to be a good mom without her to be my role model? Who would fix potato soup with the special dumplings? Who would tell me everything was going to be okay when I couldn't sleep in the middle of the night and I thought the world was ending? How dare she leave me alone? And you know what-- she would be okay with the fact that I was mad at her. Because she would understand it. Because she was my mom.

My mother and I are exceedingly different. I struggle with that because I want to be like her. I want to carry her forward but, alas, I am not her. I love her so much that I want to honor her by being more like her. But what would truly honor my mother is for me to be myself. She never asked me to be anything but myself.

I miss mom's laugh. She was always one to smile or chuckle but to make my mother laugh, a deep belly laugh full of mirth that caused tears to roll down her cheeks- to hear my mom laugh was an amazing feeling. It was good to make her so happy.

She was the keeper of the traditions and the keeper of secrets. She knew all the stories and had the mom magic. She cooked meals for big family gatherings and was usually to tired to eat it. She loved Kenny Rogers. She imparted the importance of writing thank you notes. She liked pretty things. She liked to wear hats. She went to church on Sundays.  Her favorite color was red. She smelled like Wind Song perfume. She liked ice cream. She hated to do laundry. She always planted flowers in the yard in the summer. She never missed a school play or choir concert or awards program.

I don't have her patience or her cooking skills. I don't listen like she did. I don't have her artistic ability or her beautiful voice. I don't have the ability to soothe or comfort those in need. That was my mother.

I wonder about the memories my son has of her. And her 3 youngest grand-kids were never lucky enough to meet their grandmother, my mom. I wonder who will keep her memory alive when I'm gone. You know the day she died was a beautiful day, sunny and oddly warm for September. She died and the world didn't stop turning. People didn't cry in the streets and traffic kept going. No choir of angels sang, the heavens didn't part, God didn't tell me he was sorry for taking my mom. Death is part of life and while me, my family, we were shaken, hurt, devastated... well, life went on. And for now, I'm one who is a keeper of the memories of my mother as life goes on.

Happy Birthday, mom. I love you.

your daughter