In my mind, she is about 28 years old, laughing, dark eyes flashing, with a navy bandana holding back her dark hair, slim and lovely in a sleeveless white top and jeans. She is more beautiful and wonderful than anything, and if I can make her laugh, it fills my heart to bursting, so I clown around and make goofy jokes and funny faces. When she laughs, I can’t even stand how much I love her. I hug her over and over as hard as I can. I snuggle with her and bury my head in the fold of her neck, and breathe in deep. She holds me close. We read together. My sister joins the pile. We sing. We weave our fingers together. We dance around the living room.
She teaches me to be curious, to express myself. She embraces my love of color. She buys me art supplies, takes me to museums. We sing a lot – in the car, to the radio, and at home, to LPs. She loves Motown and the Beatles. We read constantly. We draw, we play games. We do yoga. Sometimes she is sad, and she can’t explain to me why. It hurts my heart when she cries. I climb up on the bed and hug her and wipe her face with my sweaty little hands. She smiles and she cries and she hugs me back.
We are poor. She plans for things months in advance, and on Christmas Day and on birthdays it is like a miracle. There are boxes to open, and toys to play with. How much does she go without so we can have these things?
It is a golden time, when she is the star in my universe. My sister and I are her whole world.
Things change. Today I don’t recognize her. The only commonality seems to be the sadness. She is unhappy with how her life has turned out. We disagree about so many things. Now when we talk it is like we are speaking through some strange device that garbles our words as they come out. We can’t understand each other.
She gave me such a huge gift. So much of how I am raising my children comes from those early childhood experiences. Somewhere along the line, my mother lost her way. She grew clay feet. She exposed her flaws. Natural, it happens. We are all human and imperfect.
But having given unconditional love, she now looks for unconditional support. Even for decisions that are flawed, actions that are hurtful. I struggle with how to deal with her.
As Mother’s Day looms, I try to be mindful of these old memories. I want to be with my children on Mother’s Day – not to get gifts or be fed breakfast in bed, but just to hold them. And sing a little. And maybe dance around the living room. And maybe that’s the best way to honor my mom.