coming to life

I’m thinking about the way that life can be so slippery; the way a 12-year-old girl looking into the mirror to count freckles reaches out toward herself and that reflection turns into that of a woman on her wedding day, righting her veil. And how, when that woman blinks, she reopens her eyes to see a frazzled young mother trying to get peanut butter off the back of her pants for the parent/teacher conference that starts in three minutes. And how, after that young woman bends down to retrieve the wild-haired doll her daughter left on the bathroom floor, she rises up as a 48-year-old woman looking into the mirror at the lines around her eyes.

You know, we get so busy living. We get so busy counting happiness and health and love and luck and beautiful children as ordinary blessings. I think about that a lot lately. The ordinary blessings. The things we take for granted.

It’s been almost four months since my Mom died. Some days it’s like running a marathon with a rock in your shoe. You gradually start to get used to it, but it always hurts. And some days I feel like I’ve survived some kind of weird ship wreck only to find that I’m still out at sea, clinging to the scattered wreckage of her sweaters, her slippers, her recipe cards, her last voicemail.

This morning, I woke up suddenly, hours before dawn. It wasn’t a dream that woke me up. It was more like a thought. And with that thought I swear I could hear her voice. This happens to me a lot and I’m never sure if it’s because I’m really hearing it, or it’s because I’m a writer and imagining what someone would do or say often comes to me as easily as breathing. 

However, hearing her didn’t surprise me today because, as we barrel towards Mother’s Day this weekend, I’ve been trying to come up with ways to make it a better day than I anticipate it will be. So, I just laid there, thinking about how lucky we were to have had her. I laid there imagining the miracle it must have been that in all the eons of time, in all the possible universes, of all the stars in the heavens, we got to come together for one shining sliver of time, as a mom and her daughter.

I felt the wash of her love pouring over me every day that she was alive. At times I took that for granted. But I do not take for granted that I was hers, and she was mine – and that she has taught me that I can go back. That my relationship with the past is negotiable. That I can talk with the dead and with my lost self – my disappeared self. And, I can visit those places again and understand them differently. And she has taught me that memory is a kind of after-life. Another form of life.

I realize now that I habitually think of her when something in my life is hard or not going well. Because when I think of her, it’s as though something in me gets back on track and I’m re-energized. Her life has taught me, too, that nothing can destroy the spirit. Not hers. And definitely not mine.

It’s a given that Mother’s Day will be hard. I miss her with a never-ending ache that I didn’t think was possible and I don’t think that will ever change.

The gift of her will always be immeasurable. She is gone. And I am coming to life.

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