A Wish For Each Year.

1989 (christmas) mom & me
1989. 25 years ago

Today is Mom’s birthday.
This is the sixth time this particular notification has popped up on my laptop since she died.
I can’t bring myself to delete the entry on my calendar.
It’s been
5 years,
1 month, and
4 days
since she died.
That’s 1,860 days.

I’m fairly certain not a single one of those days has passed that I haven’t thought of her since she passed, even if it was just for a fleeting moment. More often than not I have something I want to tell her, or ask her, or share with her. Today she would have been 60. It’s weird to think that she’s been gone for five years. It might be even stranger to think that this year would have been a huge milestone. I wonder how we would have gotten on as adults, now that I’m settling into myself and figuring out what is really important to me.

So much has happened in the last 1,860 days. And since I can’t directly share this with her, I want to share five wishes, five things I wish I could have shared with her, one for each year she’s been gone.

1) I wanted to share France with her. Then Belgium, The Netherlands, England, Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Scotland, and Australia. I originally decided to keep this blog going so I could show her all the wonderful things around the world, things I knew that she would never be able to travel and see, but maybe if I saw them for her she could experience them too. Somewhere along the line I decided to just keep writing anyway.

2) Social media. Just before she had her first heart attack we were talking about getting her on Facebook. I think she would have loved it. I think she might have gotten Twitter, too. I know she would have loved the chance to talk with old friends more often and keep in touch with people who had moved away.

3) Music. These past few years I have grown increasingly engaged with music. I have so many bands and songs that have had an incredible impact on me. I feel like she would have enjoyed the music and the people behind it. And what I wouldn’t give to have been able to introduce her to Amanda Palmer, both her music and as a person/thinker/friend.

4) My writing. I’ll finish this novel one day. I’ll write more stories. I think the last creative piece she read of mine was a poem I wrote when I was 15.

5) Dance. I started dancing four years before she passed away but she never saw me dance outside our living room. She never saw me on stage. Since I’ve danced as a guest with Eugene Ballet Company three times. It’s the one thing I truly wish I could change.


My mother’s things

Four years ago I started putting you in boxes. The things that were left. I tried to preserve the memories I had and held onto each image in my mind as if they were fragile leaves pressed dry between the pages of a book. Somedays I flip through that book, a series of images and feelings and smell. I can call up any number of voices to read the litany of thoughts rushing through my mind, but I can’t remember your voice.

But sometimes when I look in a mirror I see my eyes peering out of your face. The one from the picture when you were maybe 28. The one where I realized I have your hands, where I can see how alive you once were, your spark and spirit, the woman who followed her heart. High cheekbones and faint laugh lines, a crooked & wry smile. The way our eyes narrow when we laugh because there is room for nothing else but laughter.

I try to laugh as much as I can, but every day a happy moment of sadness catches up with me when I start to reach out to tell you something. Four years of things big and small, silly and serious. I left not long after you died; I needed to travel and get away from the places where I saw you everyday. You followed me, a trail of single roses out of season. Now that I’m back and it seems I’m staying, I see you in myself.

There are so many things I want to ask you. Mainly, how did you do it? With everything that happened how did you keep moving forward. From where did you draw your strength? I think we had only just reached the point where maybe we could have these conversations, that I was even cognizant enough to ask. I want you to tell me all the stories I don’t remember. I want to know about your mom and how you figured out life after she died, but if you were here I wouldn’t be thinking about that.

I’m trying to figure out life without you here. Most of the time it doesn’t make sense. So I’m clinging to the things that do, all the little things that make me smile and laugh. My friends, some of whom were once your friends, now my family. Family, in whatever way I can, but mostly letting go (we know why). Dance. Travel. Little things like a clean house or a cuppa tea on a grey morning, book in hand (or maybe both!). My cats. The things that make me feel that I’m flying; I’m clinging to them all while the world rushes around me, the media telling me I’m doing it all wrong. I’ve stopped listening.

That is, I’ve stopped listening as much as I can. I can still hear the voice of society booming in the background that there is one way we need to be. I’m just trying to be someone you would have liked, that you would be proud of. And yet, still trying to make my decisions for me, being a little selfish when I need to be. Learning that compromise isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Maybe one day I’ll unpack those boxes and see if I remember why I kept the things I did. The thing about things is that the can start meaning things nobody actually said. And the things that matter most, they’re all inside my head. Like the way we danced with abandon in the living room to a new cover of an old song or the way you’d wrap us up in blankets and sit on the back porch in the cold when I had a bad cough and the cold night air was the only thing that felt good on my throat. But four years on, those boxes are staying packed. I might peek in from time to time, but I don’t think I’m ready yet.

2 years on

For all my intentions to make Wednesday a day away from the world it didn’t happen. Life keeps moving on and I’m learning that’s the lesson to be learned by so many experiences. My plan had been to curl up with some cookies, milk and a viewing of Far and Away – despite the bad accents. In memory of my mom who had passed away two years ago to the day.

I found myself instead confronted with every aspect of my life, everything that’s going right and that I’m making happen. During class I presented my theories on social media to what I can only describe as a very interested audience. After that my roommate and I ran all over south London sorting out papers and money for our flat that we move into next week. During my two hours of down time I opened up an email from CB full of links to silly YouTube videos. Then i rushed off to rehearsal, where even though things weren’t perfect we finished and filmed our dance. I have the feeling this is just the first of many Dead Dog Dance projects.
I’ve been noticing things lately. A love of healthy food, choosing water over soda… I just ate a bran muffin. I have a thing for this long thing cardigans that I’m pretty sure I made fun of my mother for wearing. I stay up late and get up early. I like the move Far and Away (as a child I thought it boring). Community and communication are very important to what I do. I’ve stopped caring what other people think of me. Happiness has little to do with money and everything to do with who is in your life. I like sweet potato and things like lentils and bulgur wheat. I prefer dark breads to white bread. I don’t mind the laugh lines that are showing up, and I see her smile on my face.

I think there’s more of my mom in me now than before, or than I was willing to admit. I wanted to write this yesterday, and I did, but it never left my head. Life doesn’t go as planned, but it does go on. And sometimes, even in the bittersweet and painful times, the beauty and wonder shines through.

frosting and a London skyline

The last few days I’ve been pouring over my blog, making little changes to the layout and how things are archived. I’ve been stumbling upon things I wrote two years ago. Pieces aching with love and hope, despair, confusion, elation. I realise that although my struggle has been long and difficult it was never so bad as this winter.

My mom was my tether in this world. As much as I fought against it, I needed her, needed her needing me more than anyone ever realised. With her around I knew what my purpose was. Even in the months following her death I still felt attached because things were unfinished. But now, things are done. Untethered I became unstrung and risked nearly losing myself. All I wanted growing up was to be free from the feeling of obligation so that I could run after my dreams without worrying. I have that now. I’m running around Europe trying to find myself without that anchor.

Colliding with others I’m finding friends in further corners of the globe than I ever imagined. I still haven’t found the reserve of strength I once had. My passion is capricious. Somedays I struggle to find a point because I don’t know what I’m really working on right now. Getting my masters degree seems almost secondary to the rest of what is going through my mind.

Today I walked down to Greenwich Market and walked around looking for something my mom would have enjoyed. I bought a raspberry vanilla cupcake and wandered out of the market and into the park. I let my feet wander where they willed and found myself 3/4 the way up a hill under a large leafy tree. Turning I sat down to a skyline of London. I watched the families. Somewhere inbetween the sticky frosting and watching a brother and sister run down the hill with abandon it hit me how much like my mother I’m becoming.

My auntie’s A & J told me when my mom moved to Oregon and they met her she wanted to meet someone and start a family. It wasn’t just something that happened to happen, it was something she sought after. I can feel that same feeling nudging it’s way up through me. A seedling poking it’s way into my life.

Right now untethered, I need to heal before I attach myself again. I know I’ll never be the same person that I was, but parts of me I could stand with coming back, the parts that help me find my footing while I’m still lose on the world. Reading what I’ve written in the past, seeing the pictures I have taken, they help me put together the story of my life and lay it clear for me to understand the path that I took.

It happens to be mothers day, which may account for some of these thoughts, and definitely accounts for the reasoning behind the cupcake. But I’d like to say, happy mothers day to all you mothers, you’re rather important people.