My mother passed away 23 years ago today. I was 16, and it was horrible for a long time, but it’s OK now. Really it is. I will always miss her terribly, but I’m good. Even after something really awful happens, things work out and the universe has a way of righting itself. Trust me on this one.
Over the years, and especially since I’ve become a mom myself, I’ve had moments where I thought, JEEZ I wish I could tell her or ask her about blah blah blah. It’s usually nothing big or existential, but it’s the stuff that you really can only talk about with your mom. You know what I mean. So today I’m going to break it down. If I had One More Day, these are the topics that I’d be sure to bring up.
1. When we had The Talk when I was 12 or 13, you said kind of in passing that you didn’t ever have trouble getting pregnant. That has stayed with me for all this time. For a while, I thought you were just trying to scare me about sex, and maybe you were, but always in the back of my head, I remember you saying this. I didn’t entirely believe you until we decided to start our family and five seconds later I was pregnant myself. Lesson learned. We would probably spend a big chunk of our One Day talking about stuff like this.
2. Dad hates Beef Stroganoff. This may not seem like a big deal, but I laugh about it often. You made it for us at least once a week, and he ate it without a word. The first time I made it for him, he looked at me and said, “You know, I’ll be OK if you don’t ever fix this again. Ever.” He ate it probably 1000 times for you. He picked his battles, and this one wasn’t worth making a fuss over. That’s the kind of marriage that I strive to have, where the sacrifices are small but their impact is large.
3. Dried fruit on road trips is a bad idea. What on earth were you thinking?! How did you not know this? From one mom to another, if you must give your kids snacks that cause bathroom emergencies, make sure that whoever is driving the car doesn’t insist on making it all the way to freaking Albuquerque before stopping (I’m looking at you, Dad).
4. Thank you for teaching me about skin care early on. You were right. I wear sunscreen every day, and wash my makeup off and use good moisturizer every night. It was kind of a drag in college to be pale while everyone was tan, but the skin on my neck could belong to a 25-year-old.
5. I cannot make a decent piecrust, and I know you could. Your grandmother made the best piecrust in the world, and she taught you. Show me. This would be useful information. In return, I’ll show you how to make bread. You’ll love it.
There’s more, of course. Stuff that just comes up randomly. I think of how you let me use the crinoline from your wedding dress to use for a Halloween costume because my skirt just didn’t look right. I think of all the times you rolled your eyes when I asked what’s for dinner because I get it now (OMG can I get in the door before hearing this?!). I still polish the silver every year the night before Thanksgiving, whether we’re going to use it or not, but I found some stuff that works way better than whatever you insisted on using.
It’s funny the things that stay with us long after someone is gone. After the initial shock of the loss wears off, you remember the weirdest stuff, the most insignificant conversations. Replaying them over and over can make you nuts, but over time, there’s always new information to be found in them.
I wish my mom had known me as an adult. I wasn’t an easy kid, but I think I’ve turned out well. That’s a reflection on her, I think. She gave me a good foundation in spite of what a jackass I so often was. Sometimes, I’ll do or say something, or make a gesture that is SO my mom and I’ll think, “damn, I get it now.” So much of what seems important turns out to not matter even a little, and the things we do in passing and the remarks we make offhand are the legacy we leave.