Yesterday was my mother’s birthday. It’s the second one since she passed away. My sister and I talked about how we missed her on Saturday. And we acknowledged it’s better she passed away–her last year was pretty tough on her, our father…and us.
But what we left unsaid is how we’re forgetting her. It’s the little things that start to go….but they add up day after day, month after month, year after year. And one day you realize there’s big gaps in your remembering and with that recognition the grief takes over again.
But—there are so many things I DO remember.
Mom made the greatest pot of soup you’ll ever taste. I watched her make it thousands of times in my life but do you think I can replicate it? Nope. She NEVER used a recipe so it was always a little bit different every time but it was always just delicious. The basic ingredients were always the same–lots of celery, and onions and carrots and barley. She used a strategic number of bay leaves and I think old bay seasoning gave it a spicy kick that always made it addictive. Maybe someday I’ll get it just right…but for now the taste of it smothers my taste buds and soothes my memories. Yeah, mom made one heck of a pot of soup.
Mom was the penultimate planner yet she was the most incredible “do things on the seat of your pants” person you’d ever meet. I remember one year she decided at the last minute we were going to go to Charleston, South Carolina for a spring break. To be precise she decided about 2 hours before we left on that epic journey that we were going to go. The memories of some of these ventures ebb and flow into one L-O-N-G recollection of misadventures but they were always somewhat chaotic, full of activities and economical. I can’t rightly recall if this is the trip that some of us in the family nearly froze to death camping one night in the middle of a unexpected freeze but the point is….you ALWAYS could expect the unexpected with my mom.
Mom believed in family. Think of concentric circles starting with the nuclear family in the center and circles of family moving away from the center—but family, family, family that was her mantra. She had expectations in terms of our commitment and obligations to one another, the way family came first and for the need to support one another through the good times and the bad. Maybe because mom came from a small family and they lived so far away–she left her beloved East Coast to join my dad’s family in the mid-west–maybe that’s what made her realize family is all you really have. The older I get the more I come to realize the sacrifice that must have been for her–knowing how her praxis came from being with those she loved most–to move away from her family. And even though her circles changed over the years as she married and had her own family–there’s no doubt the ones she left behind (year after year visit after visit) must have been a really tough sacrifice for her. Even from the grave she speaks to me of her love and commitment to those of us who are linked by our genes.
Mom was a fighter. She struggled her way out of a childhood of poverty and worked her way through college hand washing other people’s laundry, cleaning their houses, watching their kids. Making do and sacrificing were things mom understood first hand. Although she was generous with us…to her core mom never got rid of the tenacious determination that pushed her to success–and the need to always have a cushion and make do with what you get. She expected no less from her children than to do their best and the assumption we would go to college and make something of ourselves didn’t need to be verbalized. It just was….
Mom had core values that never wavered. She believed in God and her church. She always paid a faithful tithe and considered herself blessed beyond her wildest dreams. And even though she and our father were financially successful there was never a doubt their children, grand children and great grandchildren were the most precious jewels in their lives.
Mom wasn’t much of a housekeeper. And she got into cycles of cooking based on the newest batch of recipes that caught her fancy that easily shifted her from being a really good cook into a somewhat crazy and eccentric one (I mean just how many times can you eat tabouli in one week?). And she could dress in some really crazy outfits at times that made us all wonder. And her endless planning, cutting and sorting and tracking what we were doing could be a bit anal at times. But, when it came to being a mother that made us all feel special, unconditionally loved, and well….hers….there was no one better than her!
Happy Birthday Mom!!!
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