Saturday, February 20, 2016

mom's minestrone

I've been working on this post for a couple weeks. I'm still not sure I've found the words I need, but here 'tis.

On Saturday, I got up at 6:15 to head to a 7:00 rehearsal, all on about three hours of sleep. When I came home at 10:30, exhausted and ready for a nap, I found package on my doorstep from my dad.  Not wildly unusual, but since it wasn't around a holiday or my birthday and he hadn't said he was sending anything, this was curious.

Inside was a book.

My mother's best friend, Anita, wrote a memoir. She included seven pages on her relationship with my mom and my mom's battle with cancer.  Already weepy because of the sleep-deprivation, this was not a gift I was prepared for.

But oh, how precious this gift is.  I'm not sure how factual it is, seeing as how these memories are 20-30 years old (she lists me as older than my brother (nope) and my age at the time of mom's death at six (I was eleven)), but even if the diagnoses, treatments, or timelines referenced aren't quite accurate, the way she captured her friendship with my mom and my mom's personality are beautiful.

Being a motherless daughter is such an intrinsic part of who I am and I'm so used to my grief now that most days, I don't notice it.  But as I spend more and more time being an adult, I'm increasingly angry at the incredible unfairness of not getting to know my mother as a person or a friend. Everything I hear suggests that I would have really liked her.  I always think that I get my sense of humour from my dad, but the more I learn, the more I know that mom's in there, too.  Consider this story of how my mom became friends with Anita:

We attended the same church, and it was there, while working at the annual rummage sale, we discovered we shared a spontaneous and somewhat quirky sense of humor.

I was sorting lingerie when I came across a pair of sheer, black, bikini pajama bottoms.
"Look," I said, placing the bikinis around my upper arm. "They fit."

Nancy looked at me from three tables down and said, "Those are mine."

Nancy was a petite size four and you'd have to do some serious multiplying to reach my size.  She continued, "Sam likes the maid outfit better."  While others looked at us in shock and dismay, our laughter echoed throughout the gym.

Looking past the cringe-factor of wondering how much truth there is to the idea that my mom wore a maid outfit for my dad, I find this exchange hilarious. It sounds so like some of the things I say. 

Anita also recounts the beginning of the locally-famous ugly gift exchange tradition, which started with just the two of them and had grown to include fifteen or twenty of my parents' friends by the time mom died.  At some point, my mother gifted Anita with a truly tacky ceramic poodle.  A few days after I got married, I opened a box from Anita to find this poodle front and center.  Tim didn't really get it, but I laughed and cried (much like I'm doing right now) and was just so touched.

This poodle though.

All this just to say that I miss my mom. I wish I'd known her.  I wish my relationship with my dad and my brother were better.  I wish things were different.  But things aren't different, and I've built myself a life I love, a life I'm proud of.