Last summer, at my god-mother’s funeral, a cousin asked me if I missed my mother. Without skipping a beat I said of course, but I also added that I feel her inside of me, and in that place I hold her even closer. I hear her laugh coming from my throat, her gestures moving my hand, and her confidence as I stride into any situation. I encounter reminders of my mother in the shade of nail polish I pick out at the salon, reminders as I dive into the salty surf, reminders as I sit with her sister or brother, and certainly whenever talk drifts to the precious old days. She’s gone but she’s everywhere all at once.
With two-carts of groceries, the grape juice, egg noodles, green beans and a thousand other items to feed 12 people for four days in addition to serving the Big Dinner, making beds of every sort in every possible nook, gathering extra blankets and towels and pillows, wrapping gifts and hanging festive lights, remembering both cranberry and stuffing recipes, lining the mantle and every table top with Santas galore, setting up the creche, first airport run, second, arranging for the third, lighting the tree star, rolling out the dough, baking pies and decorating sugar cookies, hanging the stockings, getting the turkey in the oven before noon, popping a few corks, conducting a proper Yankee swap with plenty of steals, giving the cheer, sharing our blessings, holding hands to voice our thanks before the feast, the walking talks and monster hike and ping-pong and even a new Star Wars! All done without our Shinning Christmas Star who would have loved this holiday; loved for those who came despite their sorrow, for those who came despite their inevitable travel snafus, and for those who brought extra cheer to fill the gap. Despite the long shadow, Christmas 2015 will be remembered for the best reasons.
After a long work week, a very long day, and a longer drive, we arrive just before 11 to the dark house. My sister is still in her car when we pull in the driveway behind her. Too sad to open the front door and face the emptiness. But together we go in, and together we begin to sort through all that’s still there.
Our mother made an inviting home for all who visited. A god-daughter stopping by for a luncheon. Her sister up from Philadelphia for the weekend. Dinner parties with old friends and new. Holiday meals and birthdays. All reasons for her to arrange flowers and light candles along her dining room table. My daughter was a summer-long guest while she took on a NYC internship; my youngest son stayed for the whole year after college as he found a job, himself, direction. And always her six coming and going, stopping by to enjoy her hospitality. This, her last home, is imbued with bright sunshine, streaming in all afternoon, as well as reflecting from the yellow walls and warm-toned furnishing.
She was, however, a rolling stone, often on one of her trips. Only in “her pad” (as she referred to her home) here and there. She visited us in Vermont, other children and grandchildren in California, her siblings in Florida, traveled across Europe, exploring the National Parks, Alaska, Egypt, even the Panama Canal. Kept moving that one.
On Saturday we wake early, dash about, reeling like at a garage sale of memories; we pack up the last of her, even though I still see her reflection in the mirror over her dresser as she pulls out a well-worn cashmere sweater from the third drawer. Funny how I can still remember where she kept what, even though her clothes are folded in piles across her bed now, and it’s been decades since I even looked in those drawers.
But now we empty kitchen cupboards and cabinets, drawers and closets, making piles for what goes where, the whole of her boxed and sealed, made ready to be transported elsewhere. How can one laugh while undertaking such a sorrowful task? In my mother’s joyful home, how could one not? So we do. At the end of the weekend, we each drive away with carloads of her, off to our separate homes, carting simple objects made priceless by memory.
What follows this paragraph was posted in November of 2012. For those who were lucky enough to have visited my mother’s home or for those of you who read this blog way back then, I hope this post is a sweet remembrance. For the rest, I invite you in for a glimpse of her home as it was, before, yes, before she was divided into neat piles; for, as we have come to say, mom is everywhere. Indeed.
No one knows exactly how it happens, but it does. We spend an easy two decades just bopping around, flitting from idea to idea, from that self to this, sort of, kindly put, finding ourselves. Then we hit 30. That magical decade when we are found: Career, Spouse, Homeland. You know the drill. By your 30’s one is expected to know it all. By 30 I had three underfoot, a divorce pending, a new relationship and career underway, and a burning desire to write, write, and write some more; and so, while children grew, outgrew, and moved over and out, I kept at it. All of it. Before I knew it my 30 years had doubled.