[So, I wrote this a few weeks ago…but couldn’t push publish at the time. Sometimes I feel like I write too much about the ache of missing my mom. It’s not unique. I’m not unique. That kind of loss is something that we all will experience, or already have. Still, I figure that if the point of this whole exercise is to create a record of these moments and stories in a format that my kids are more likely to find someday than the tangible and scattered pieces of my own mother’s story that I find tucked away every now and again in old suitcases, journals and book jackets, then I should just put it out there. This is for them. The three people I want most to know her and me–even long after I am gone.
And I want them to know that my sister and I were lucky to have one of the great ones, and lucky to have her as long as we did.]
This morning he was screaming and banging the kitchen floor, like a life-size Joe Pesci in [insert the name of any mob movie here], because he wanted the salt shaker.
“Salt! Salt! I want dat salt!”
Arms flailing, feet stomping, red-faced and tear-streaked. I finally put some on his hand and he licked it.
“Yuck, dat’s disgusting. You not nice, mama.”
I kissed him anyway and he ran off to wreak mini-gangster havoc somewhere else, no longer interested in the shaker.
He’ll be 3 in a few months. It all goes by so fast. It’s cliché, I know, to describe the time it takes for them to grow up in this way. But clichés are clichés because they are true. They’re almost universally true. And so commonplace, that it’s completely unoriginal to even express them, yet I can’t help myself.
So, banal as it may be: Time is flying. He is growing so fast. His sisters are too. They are so big. The almost 7 year old stands higher than my chin. Her legs are as long as mine already, and I can see both girls as the young women they will be almost as easily I can remember them as babies.
This quickstep of time, with its relentless spin turns, makes the timelines of their lives blurry. Was that her blanket before it was his? Which one found the book about the farting dog at the library, the one the whole family can’t get enough of? Which of the girls didn’t sleep for more than a hour at a time for the first six months? (Umm…both.)
The timeline is sometimes so blurred that I can forget what parts my mom was alive for, and what she’s missed. This part of the flying time cliché can be cruel and confusing.
But there is also opportunity in the malleability of memory.
There are a few books I vividly remember her reading to the girls. I can recall the sound of her voice, and see her finger tracing the words. I remember the giggle fits when she would deliberately read the wrong word and a two-year old Peanut (having heard the story 157 times already) knew it was wrong and corrected her.
“Noooo Tutu! You’re silly!!”
I read those books to the little guy now. The guy she never knew. I talk about her so much that I sometimes wonder whether by trick of imagination, or time’s quickstep effect, he will remember her.
He talks about her like she’s here. He’s almost 3 years old but she’s been gone for 4 and a half years.
He plays the Tutu game. The one she played with me as a girl, and with Peanut.
“I’m thinking of a place on my face that I want you to kiss. Can you guess where it is?”
He sits on my lap, facing me. His post-breakfast, maple syrup breath making the air between us sweet. I close my eyes while he pecks kisses on my face. He keeps kissing until he finds the right spot.
“You found it,” I open my eyes and say. “Your turn.”
I’m thinking of a place on her face that I want to kiss. But she’s not here.
I want to scream like Joe Pesci. But I won’t.
Instead, I’ll continue to take advantage of time’s blurring of real memory, as maddening as it can be sometimes.
I’ll make her part of their present lives so, by the grace of flying time, she lives in their future memories.