It’s the rituals that I miss. I loved phoning the florist near my mom’s house and asking for the spring bouquet of tulips. I loved asking if the Austrian gentleman could deliver them. I loved talking to my mom and hearing her say, “Oh you know what Tess, that flower delivery man LOVES ME. He’s always flirting with me.” (what this means is that my mother was flirting shamelessly with him). I loved the fact that her birthday falls fortuitously close to the Oscars, the single most important event of the year for my mother and consequently for us. The Oscars were better than her own birthday, better than her childrens’ birthdays, better than Christmas. Probably not better than John Lennon’s song Imagine which she loved dearly. The Oscars, you see, were the time where we forgot everything and imagined for a few short hours that we were stars, dressed and ready to be glorious. The ritual is so ingrained that my niece skyped the entire Oscars for me last year when I was sick in bed with pneumonia and without cable . Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Yesterday was my mother’s birthday. I hadn’t forgotten about it. Thoughts of my mom weave their way through my every day life in an every day way. Missing her is the new normal – the sharpness of early grief has evened itself out. So I was taken aback when my niece sent me a text saying, “It’s nana’s birthday today isn’t it? I love you auntie Pie.” Yes, it was her birthday and I had half forgotten. And I don’t like that. So I spent a lot of time thinking about her yesterday. And this is what I thought.
I thought about all the things I loved about her and all my favourite memories. And then inevitably my mind wanders to the part that I find the most difficult. And this is what I struggle with. For most of my life my mother was my mother. I loved her but she could also make me crazy. She could be inexplicably difficult and hard on people. She could make things complicated, she could be intransigent and self-centred. I have known all these things about her. And as her daughter I sometimes reacted without always understanding where she came from.
More and more when I think about my mother now I think of her as a woman which feels different than thinking of her as my mother. As a woman I see her more clearly and I feel I have more context for her life. And that’s when my heart starts to hurt. Because my mom had a difficult life. And when I think of her as my mother, I just think about how well she loved and took care of me and how pure and well intentioned her love was. But when I think of her as a woman and as my friend I feel a deep sadness for some of the struggles she faced in her life and I realize that I understood too late who she was as a woman. And I wish I had had more of that.
Yesterday Dave and I chatted about Rosie. It’s Oscar weekend and t’s her birthday. The tulips that I planted for her are making their way up to say hello. I can’t garden – I don’t share her green thumb but these seem to do well in spite of my ability to kill all living plants. We chatted about who she was. Dave saw my mother’s faults but he loved her and saw her clearly, maybe in some ways as her good friend he saw her more clearly than I always did – but he said this. He said your mother loved you because she saw who you were. She saw that you didn’t have the outside layer other people have that protects them…so she worried about you and how people might take advantage of you. But it’s also the trait that really allowed her to be herself with you, to show you who she really was. She was your greatest friend. And she was. So here is to my mother Rosie. To her tulips. To her life. For showing me how to elevate life to its finest glorious moments. Cheers.