My Mother, in Four Snapshots
- I was nine years old, we lived in Wichita, Kansas. Mom had decreed that it was a day to play hooky from school. Something awful must have happened to me the day before. Anyway, we went to the movies and saw “The Pink Panther.” On our way out, we got ice cream cones. But then we remembered it was raining. Something about trying to open the umbrella while holding ice cream cones, and simultaneously revisiting the funniest lines from the movie — all that triggered laughing fits that made people’s heads turn. We couldn’t stop. It was awesome.
- New Years Eve in Beverly Hills. I was thirteen. I had a walk-in closet that had actually two compartments. You opened the first door, and that was for shelves — shoes, and scarves, whatever you would fold and put on a shelf. Then there was another door to the left, and that led to where the dresses and coats were. In the second compartment, there was just room for us, my mother a me. I had made it beautiful there — turning my wastebasket upside down, and covering it with a cloth. I put a little candlestick on top, and lit the candle. There were two tangerines. When the year rolled over in bed, my mom joined me in there. We sat on our knees and ate our tangerines. I don’t remember what we talked about. But I loved the sweet intimacy of that moment, and the quiet of it.
- Exasperation. That, plus embarrassment and fury. And a hidden, sort of shame-ridden pride at the fact that no one, no one, has a grandmother like my mother was to my son. I got the call from his boarding school. On April Fools Day, his last year of high school, the entire senior class snuck out of their dorms, got on the rented busses and went to town. How they pulled it off the actual doing of it, I’ll never know. But I damn well know who paid for it. My mother. PAID. For the BUSSES. I was livid. There were kids in that class who might have just taken off — and my mother would have been their key to freedom/danger/mayhem/whatever. But I really do have to say, it makes a damn good story.
- In November, Mom was 85 and there had been a blizzard. She lived in a lovely home on the Truckee River, right outside of Reno, Nevada. For the past decade or so, each Thanksgiving, the same wild turkey would show up and just hang out for a couple weeks, right where we could see her from the dining room. Mom named her Priscilla. We used to joke that she was the ghost of all turkey dinners, coming to haunt us as we ate our holiday meal. In the last months of her life, my mother lost track of the way things are normally done. So I found her one morning, outside, in her pajamas, barefoot, in the snow. I ran out with a coat and shoes. “What are you doing, Mom?!” She was leaving birdseed for Priscilla. Worried that the bird might go hungry.
These are just a random sampling of memories that form a nest of affection in my heart for my mother who left a legacy of generosity and laughter in her wake. Happy Mothers Day, everyone. Real relationships are complicated. Focus on the good stuff, ’cause life is short.
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