I thought of you today when I made special scrambled eggs with cheese for Sissy when the rest of us were having sunny side up. "Dippy eggs" we call them in our house. I thought of all the special meals you made my Sissy. Peanut butter and bacon instead of our BLTs. No tomatoes...on anything. I once saw my sister maneuver her tongue around the inside of her mouth, a big bite of food filling all the space, and precisely remove a dime sized tomato piece.
I remember happily and gladly getting up to make Lauren some eggs with cheese and bacon. You said to me, "Only you would get up and cook a pound of bacon at 8:00 at night for your daughter!" That's how much I love cooking and sometimes it inspires me so much that the spirit moves me. You noticed. And I noticed all the years that you made dinner when it was the last thing you wanted to do. Packed a school lunch or Dad's lunch for work when you'd have rather done absolutely anything else. Eighteen years of packed lunches for me and my sister. Thirty five years of shift work for Dad. Black lunch box that was extra tall to hold a thermos on the top....it's location the top shelf of the closet nearest the kitchen. I wonder what is in that closet now.
Styrofoam cups, extra tall in the small drawer nearest the linen drawer that only looked like a drawer, but pulled straight out from the right hand side hinge. I wonder what that odd little area holds now. Now that we don't call that house our own. Dad's "to-go" cups for lots and lots of weak coffee. He was an extra early riser. He called my French Roast tar. A lifetime of memories and one week to clean out the house. Just 67 years old. And I never thought you'd die. I never thought you'd die.
We later joked in life that you totally babied Sis. You were a short order cook and had patience when shoes were feeling weird on toes or tights were scratchy or a snowmobile suit made her look like a boy. You lovingly gave your all to our family. Now, a mother myself, I know how easy it is to go to sharp words, hand slamming down, just wanting a tiny bit of quiet and peace. A tiny bit of something just for myself, no kid hands touching my precious one thing (which feels like the only thing) or climbing up my lap. Big exhales that and she knows what they mean. She's eight now.
I remember coming home from school, running off the bus to quickly find you in your bedroom. How many hours had you been there? You had mono and I can only imagine how tired you were. Bone tired. But you smiled and looked at our homework and listened to our tales from the school yard. You still cooked dinner every night and made special deserts like pudding or jello in the Tupperware cups on Tuesday nights when cousin Robb came over. You made the ordinary magical with me and my sister and later with our children. You always showed us that you cared.
You were recovering from a stem-cell transplant, still receiving chemo and you took the kids into the pine trees near the side of the house and created a fairy land. All make believe and grandmotherly perfection. I recall Dad planting those trees, never realizing that they would tower tall and my children would run through their floor. Even in the worst of circumstances we could still laugh about something. Sometimes beginning as a chuckle and ending in all out belly laughing.
You showed me how to be a mother. You showed me as a child that you still needed something to call your own, beyond the world of mothering. You were on a bowling league with your girlfriends. The Night Owls. I still have your bowling bag, ball and shoes. A reminder to allow myself a night out with friends and a cocktail or two. To laugh, to fill your own self up so you have something to give to others.
You did ceramics, taking a pencil to your wet work and carving Terry K or TAK in the bottom. You took a furniture refinishing class at the high school. You refinished every piece of wood in our house. You used coupons and rebated for a year or more. The basement shelves were filled with clear plastic boxes and organized with an elaborate filing system. You saved every bit of money from this endeavor....so much money saved that we took a trip to Florida.
All along I was watching. Observing and taking mental notes. Auntie Ruthie always said I was an old soul. I think she was right. Even at a young age I imagined what kind of mother I would be. I wanted two kids. Only two, just like our family had. When I find myself yelling or closed in, life a constant hum of dropping and picking up, laundry that multiplies overnight and dishes that go in, go out, go in, go out of the dishwasher, I think of you. I think of how your laughter sounded, your kind smile and desire to always help someone.
I think of the poem I wrote in Mr. Mauer's eighth grade English class. The teacher who made feel like I could write, that I could act. He filled my heart with so much confidence. I got an A on the poem. He read it out loud to the class and my heart almost burst with pride. I couldn't wait to show you. Of course you kept it. In a small pink envelope. I keep it in the box of your stuff on my closet shelf. All these pieces of paper and cards and handwritten notes...photos and things that connect me to you. I take the box off the shelf every so often and dump it out and in putting all the pieces back in the box I put myself back together. We are all missing pieces.
by Tricia Kushman
The summer flies by and the months just seem to flow,
Everything is almost forgotten through the years...
The math quiz you flunked,
The guy you fell for,
That orthodontists appointment that slipped your mind...
The school dances,
All the faraway memories...
It just seems as if everything is suddenly somewhat forgotten
over the years,
But I don't think I could forget anything quite like a Mothers Hug.
I still feel the same way today. Life is so ordinary and magnificent that it hurts sometimes. I feel it like a physical ache. But for the first time in a long time I know that everything is going to be okay. I believe it. I know it.