“…I believe in ghosts, but we create them. We haunt ourselves.”
― Laurie Halse Anderson
The spirits of the past call to me often. It seems as I age they call more loudly and often. They have become a choir but one or two voices sing more loudly than the rest…especially on Mother’s Day.
Usually, they sing late in the darkness of night. Mostly their songs are the sweet songs of a mother’s or grandmother’s love, long gone but not forgotten.
Light fingers touching my cheek waking me from a deep sleep in the early, still, and dark morning. It is not the witching hour but the sweetness hour. A memory, a sweet dream. A dream but I am thankful just the same.
Disjointed dreams with no rhyme or reason. Just the brain ridding itself of useless information…maybe.
Stroking a fevered brow, mayonnaise and onion sandwiches, the sound of a hoe contacting a rock followed by the thud the rock makes when it is thrown out. Sitting on “our” church pew, my brother and I sandwiched between my mother and father.
A broad smile on a freckled face because of something I did right for a change, birthday cakes, Christmas ambrosia, and Missouri cookies. A smiling good night or good morning. Breaking beans on a front porch in the August heat….or cutting corn to cream off the cob under a shade tree.
I only had my mother for a short time. She left me eight months past my eighteenth birthday. Left me, my brother, and my father. For much of the previous five years, she battled ALS until the war was lost just after midnight the second day of the New Year 1969. I awoke and glanced at the clock just before the phone rang with a message I didn’t want to hear. I never allowed myself to actually believe she would die…until the phone rang.
I try to forget those years…the years she couldn’t work, the years she sat in a wheelchair, her legs becoming more useless as the disease moved up her body. The wheelchair changing to a hospital bed. The weekend trips to visit her in the hospital in Columbia. That last Christmas together. The nights my father sat up and played solitaire because he couldn’t sleep from the worry.
I strain to remember her…I rack my brain for a wisp of a memory. I can’t hear her voice any longer and it pains me. All my memories are fuzzy, and I am pained further. I stand in front of her paintings, the acrylics she labored on during those last years. They are silent. They don’t help me remember.
A cheap bit of costume jewelry tucked away in a small jewelry box. The first gift I bought her with my own money. A broach she wore often at Christmastime. Just a bit of paste and red and green glass. I didn’t have a chance to buy more expensive gifts…gifts she deserved.
I have photographs to remind me of her. Her curly, red hair and freckles. The alabaster skin under her freckles turning lobster red after five minutes in the summer sun. A big smile and a bigger laugh. A bit of shyness. A series of photographs from a vacation we took…when she was alive…really alive. Putt-Putt golf and lounging on the beach.
My parent’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary…but in the picture was the wheelchair.
Readying herself for work at a textile mill, a thick round of draw-in treads draped around her neck and tied like a lei necklace. I wonder what happened to her reed hooks and the tiny scissors she carried. They were always in her apron…I wonder where they are?
I wonder why my memories of her are in her “work” clothes. A plain cotton blouse and A-line skirt…sensible shoes. For some reason, I remember the color blue and how, late into one shift, she took the time to teach me to tie a weaver’s knot and how to find a breakout on a loom. Strange memories indeed.
Mother’s Day is not a day of celebration for me, not a day of joy. It should be. My daughter is now a mother, a good mother…the best mother. I should focus on her…I try…I fail.
My memory moves to the small country church of my youth and the graveyard across the road. Granite memorials are all that remain. Memories of sickness, funerals, and pain.
It is a day of questions and longings. A day of introspection, searching for the memories…the dreams. A day of “what ifs?” She never met my Linda Gail; she never met her grandchild; she never met her great grandchildren. I think they would have liked her…loved her.
Today will come and go…and with its leaving, the return of sweet songs from the past played out in dreams…and a brightening, I hope.
Momma and Nannie…I miss you both every day but more so on this day…Mother’s Day. Rarely is there a day that goes by that something does not remind me of you. Mostly I smile…except when I do not…but mostly I smile.