My Mom died 12 years ago, and Sunday was almost a carbon copy of the day Steve received the call- crisp and sunny. He tracked me down and shared the news, and then he went about the kind work of helping me get ready to say goodbye. I was blessed in my Mother, and I am blessed in my husband. Those hard times make you realize that you have chosen well. I miss Mom still, though I am not given to a dark track-back. I was lucky to have her for so many years. I tested her mightily when I was young. I was the ultimate “good girl” in the world, but at home, where I was certain that I was loved, I was pretty uppity. I got mine- when I raised an eyebrow at her, she would clip me with her best slap. I had it coming, I expect. No scars show, and there were no psychic scars administered. It was just crowd management. We understood.
I absorbed a collection of her furniture when Dad died last year- a dining set, chair and a half, entertainment center and fireplace screen. I also grabbed a few pictures, among them, an embroidered sampler that I stitched for Mom in 1983. It still confounds me that I could have two babies, and find time to stitch up a gift for Mom. What happened to me? Now I accomplish almost nothing in a day.
At any rate, the picture isn’t much to look at, but I remember that the words were important to me. I needed to say thank you for making us good kids. For expecting good manners, chores and gratitude from us. I wanted to say I was sorry for ever making her feel that she had failed-even for a moment. I know that I hurt her feelings some times- Janet the drama queen was comfortable saying “I hate you” and slamming my door. She didn’t hold it against me- there was never time to brood over the clattering kids. She may have withheld affection or kindness for a bit- but it taught me tho think twice before alienating my support system. We ended up being kindred spirits. She came to love Steve, and to appreciate that he forced me to grow up and become independent. She remembered my forlorn camp and college letters, and I think she expected me to be homesick and come home from Chicago. She was proud that I made roots here.
I don’t really remember giving Mom the needlework, but I know she hung it. She would have hung it if she hated it, because that is how she embraced her kids’ gifts. There are butterflies in the pattern, and back in the day, Mom was never associated with butterflies. But years later, when the kids and I visited her in Florida, she paid an outrageous price for tickets to a “Butterfly Museum” to entertain us. My boys lost interest in 45 minutes. They were supposed to be human perches for all kinds of butterflies- but none alighted. The displays of cocoons were drab, and the flowers were of little interest to 3 adolescents. For years, it was a running joke with Grandma Elaine- “when are we returning to Butterfly World?” On the day of her funeral, a butterfly got into my sister’s house at the after-glow. We took it as a sign.
This week, the sampler that I stitched 27 years ago fell off the living room wall, leaving a red streak on my new paint, and a gash in the cherry frame. I think maybe it was just Mom’s way of saying that she liked the way her stuff looked here in Illinois. Maybe she didn’t like the wall I selected for the stitched sentiments- or maybe she thought it was time for a new matte and frame. WHo knows? There is no question that I will rehang it. And the chair and a half obscures the divot in the wall.
My family went to church in Royal Oak to remember Mom, since a Mass was said in her honor. I did alternative worship. A string of blue beads that I gave Mom years ago, and repossessed at her death, broke while I wore it to a wedding. So on Sunday, I restrung the strand, adding a few more sparkling crystals, and feeling good that I was touching something that she had enjoyed. I just might buy a blue sweater, so I have something to wear it with. She would approve.
The Joliat girls are traipsing over to New Buffalo for a weekend retreat- a celebration that in days past, included our Mom. She will certainly be there in spirit and in DNA. We will drink, eat, shop, and make a craft project- all things Mom loved to do. We might need her beloved M & M peanuts and brie cheese with apples. We are Elaine’s daughters, through and through. It is a pretty good legacy.
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