Happy Mother’s Day: A Letter to My Mom who is Not Here

My mother died this past July.  This is my first Mother’s Day without her.  I decided to write to her here.  Maybe a bit more honest than I would have been in life, but that is the one accommodation of death.

Dear Mom,

I know you don’t do computers, and you don’t know what a blog is, but maybe you can read this anyway.

I have to say, I feel a bit relieved this year, not having to search for a Mother’s Day card that fit, standing in the supermarket, searching for one that felt honest.   I couldn’t ever get you one of the sappy cards that said you were the best mother on the planet.  I wanted to buy one of those cards.  I wanted you to be that Mom for so many years.  I wanted that with all my heart.

But you were you.  And we had our own love, messy, awkward, and finally, very deep.  For years, I wanted big scenes, like Hollywood movies.  I wanted you to tell me you’d love me no matter what or to buy me some amethyst locket or black sweater that was “so me.”  But I don’t have those memories.  I guess I really wanted a mother who would be like your best therapist, only one who served you tea and honey and homemade biscuits– and never charged for listening.  Instead I found therapists, to help me learn to love the mother I had.

And I did love you.  And you did love me.  And that’s all that matters.  Our love was our own special dance and I am so grateful for all you have been to me, and still are.  I miss the simplicity of our love.

I ache for the simple comforts of shopping with you in Shop Rite or CVS.  I loved seeing you in a department store, hold up another pair of green stoned costume jewelry earrings, saying “Tam, look at these,” when we both knew you had at least 10 other pairs of green earrings at home.  I’d say, “Oh those are nice,” complicit, accepting, being for you what I’d always wanted from you.  “What can I say, I enjoy being a girl”, you’d say, all flirty and mischievous.  You were young always.  I loved you for your innocence and enthusiasm.  I felt frustrated by your lack of maturity and sophistication.

I wanted a mother who would have shopped at Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s and bought real leather hand bags and 14 karat gold jewelry and introduced me to the finer things of life.  I wanted a mother who could teach me things.  I didn’t realize you were teaching me things.  You were teaching me how to be simple.  You were teaching me how to block out pain, ignore disappointment and busted romanticism, and still delight in sparkly things.

You didn’t have my hungers in life.  You weren’t cursed this way.  You knew how to be content, fine with not having the expensive cable channel package on your television, fine in your own company, eating barbecued chicken by yourself on Friday nights, telling me on the phone, so many times, how much you loved to eat chicken.  I want to eat chicken with you.  I want to ask you how much you like it. I want to sit at your cluttered kitchen table and tease you about the 5 nail files and the duplicate sets of salt and pepper shakers, and the plastic containers holding rubber bands, and paper clips.

Because now I get it.  It was never about the deep and memorable words.  It was never about being the great role model or sweeping heroine that I could count on. It was the love.  It was the thick consecrated essence between us.  It was the sight of your thin freckled arm.  It was the inevitable pink lipstick on your front tooth.  It was you dancing to a Hall & Oates song in your living room, even in your eighties. It was just you.  And it was the unspeakable familiarity and comfort, even when I felt on edge around you.

Mom I miss you so much.  I miss you in grocery stores.  I miss calling you from airports when I was tired and didn’t have any energy to be “on,” so I called you, because you only wanted to know what I had eaten or what the weather was.  I know I sometimes wished you’d want to know more.  And now I realize what a gift you gave me.  You didn’t need to know that I taught a successful retreat or that I was worried about marketing my business.  You just needed to hear my voice and to know that I was well.  You didn’t need to know the details.  You knew a pleasure beyond any words.  You were just happy that I called.

I’m calling you now Mom.  I’m calling you with all my heart.  I’m saying thank you and I love you and I forgive you and I forgive me and I think we got our dance right.  Happy Mother’s Day.

And yes, I like those earrings.

Is your Mom still alive?  If she’s not–want to share something with us here?  If she is–want to share something with us here that maybe you can’t write to her? Would love to hear from you!

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