My seven-year-old asked me to see pictures of “Grandma Christine,” my mom. “I can’t remember what she looks like.”
It’s not surprising he doesn’t remember. He was only five months old when she died.
I told him I didn’t have many pictures of her. I explained that this was because she destroyed all our pictures while suffering from a kind of mental illness. I added that the loss of all those photos makes every picture I have of her all the more precious.
I promised to show him those pictures I still have, but a day passed. Another day passed. Yet anther day was apt to pass when he exclaimed an hour or so ago, “Your mom! I still want to see pictures!”
I sat down on the stool in front of my computer. Li’l D joined me there, snuggling up next to me as I loaded my tiny folder of photos labeled “Mom.”
The warmth of Mom flowed from those photos until I got to one longtime readers will recognize: the moment my mom met her first grandchild, and smiled a genuine smile for the first time I’d seen in years.
Li’l D scampered off to play with his new toys as I stared at the photo.
In my blog’s most popular post, “Dear Mom,” I expressed some of the abundant joys and sorrows of being my mom’s daughter. In the two years since I wrote that post, I understand the joys so much more clearly.
I also understand what a privilege it was to be raised by her. I know this might sound strange to someone who’s read about pieces of the poverty, abuse, predation, mental illness, and cancer that entailed, but those were mere fractions of an overall experience bound together by her love, compassion, forgiveness, and hope.
Had I experienced all that hardship without her insistence–and demonstration–there could be better, I would not be where I am today.
I like where I am today. I like how I am facing enormously complicated, harrowing truths while finding ways to effect change and retaining my optimism.
How do I know to do these things?
I learned them from my mom.
So today, as I remember the warmth of my son pressed against my side, asking questions about Grandma Christine, I also remember the warmth of being nestled against my mother.
The warmth itself fades, but the memory of that warmth is unquenchable.
Note: If you’d like to read more on the joys and hardships of being my mom’s daughter, please read the series I compiled–largely for my husband–last year:
I talked with an old friend yesterday morning.
She had made coffee at 6:15 a.m. so she’d be ready to chat at 6:30 a.m.
As I drove to work, Jane and I talked on the phone about many things. One particular exchange stood out after we hung up after I reached my office.
“I’m trying to give myself breaks. I can’t really effect positive change from a place of constant distress, y’know?” I said.
“I’m writing that down,” she replied. She felt exactly what I meant.
I wanted to write down a lot of what we said, but I couldn’t.
Instead of marking the words, I marked the feeling: the feeling of safety that comes with having loved and quarreled with and come back to loving someone without reservation.
For the first time in what seemed like ages, my distress melted away. I was just Deb, chatting with a dear old friend and savoring every second of it.
I tried to return to the feeling of Jane-talking throughout the day. I’d find it in moments here and there, but it kept fleeing when I thought about all the change I wasn’t making happen right now!
Today was a little different.
I’d told Jane yesterday, “Rain is nice. When it’s sunny out, which is most the time here, I feel like I have to get things done. When it pours, the load is lightened. I feel so much more mellow, like, ‘You know what? Today would be a good day to do half as many things.'”
It poured today, as if to remind me.
After spending extra time in traffic this morning thanks to the glorious downpour, I stopped at a gas station and messaged my sister and a new, supportive Twitter friend, Michael, while filling my tank: “Wish I knew how to relax right now.”
Step away, Rache and Michael both told me. Take a social media break!
I smiled. I was grateful to have them looking out for me.
Soon after, I read with a little boy who asked, “Will you be coming back tomorrow?!” (“No,” I told him, “but I’ll see you again next month!”)
At work, we had our holiday party. I fought valiantly and won the only prize worth keeping: poop slippers, which I seized at the very last second.
And there was something else, too: I’d solved a riddle. Thanks to Jane’s candor, I was able to piece together some part of a truth it’s pissed me off to have perpetually just beyond my reach.
The joy from solving a riddle is directly proportional to the time and energy it takes to solve it …
… and whether a friend helps you solve it.
Same as always on Friday, I inched home slowly in Friday afternoon traffic.
Unlike always, I smiled all the way. Why? Well, wouldn’t you know:
I talked with an old friend yesterday morning.
I owe my seven-year-old some snuggles, and I promised my husband I was about to step away from the computer.
I couldn’t step away yet, though. There was something else I had to say, so I sat here for a moment longer, trying to figure out what that feeling was. I finally found a name for it: gratitude.
I’ve learned a lot of hard things the last few months. They made me both sad and angry, and I showed lots of both those emotions. I’ve already said sorry for being a jerk, so I won’t dwell there again.
What’s left to say, I think, is thank you. Thank you for sticking around while I figured out what I believe, and how to start expressing it, and got back around to understanding we needn’t agree on much of anything to support each other in friendship.
I’m glad you stuck around. I’m glad you didn’t throw up your hands and go, “That’s it! The Deb I knew is gone! Done here!”
You could have. You didn’t.
Thank you for staying.