Another year has flown by, and it’s Mom’s birthday again tomorrow. She would be 82 years old, imagine. When I was a teen, facing bouts of sadness, Mom would tell me, “Honey, life is too short. You turn around, and it’s half over.” I know now more acutely how right she was. Life flies by. And the older you get, the quicker it goes.
I awoke this morning to another knock on the door, this time at my bedroom. I answered, and again no one was there. Yesterday, as I was feeling sick, my Smilebox started up on the computer- which was several feet away. Up popped a creation I made, right to a picture of Mom and me. Underneath it said, “best friends.” Normally it would have taken me five separate clicks to access this particular page, but there it was all on its own. Right when I was feeling really, really sick. I know Mom is with me.
Tomorrow is her birthday, and I will bring flowers.
When Mom was first working at State Farm, a co-worker received some lovely flowers on her birthday. They were from her husband. Mom came home that evening and told me about them.
“Oh, they make a big ta-do about it. Your name is called over the speakers, ‘So n so, you have a delivery at the front desk.’ Then you leave your desk and walk up front to see what it is. Sometimes, if the girls at the front are at lunch, instead of announcing it, one of the kids from the mail room will walk it back to your desk.” Mom’s eyes started to fill up. “Oh…. shit,” Mom had never sworn when Dad was alive, but after we lost him she had unpacked a few mild swears from their hiding spot.
“What’s the matter?” I asked, but I already knew.
“You know, honey,” Mom reached for a tissue. “You know. You’re father’s not here- I don’t have to tell you that, do I?” Mom laughed in one of those sad-not-funny ways, her eyes still brimming with tears. “I’ll never be called to the front office for flowers. I’ll never be one of those girls who get flowers. That part of my life is over.”
I hugged Mom. And in Mom’s quieter moments, she loved a good hug. Her hugs were gentle and delicate. She would often pat my back during a hug, but this time she didn’t.
Luckily, Mom’s birthday landed in November- the same month as Beatlefest. Every year, I saved my lunch money, allowances, birthday money, and babysitting earnings for the Big Beatle Weekend. Just after Thanksgiving, it was my chance to splurge, to come away with as many George Harrison pictures as possible (we had no internet). Because of this, I had plenty of money in my bank account around November 9th, Mom’s birthday.
It took about fifty minutes to walk from my house to the bank. On the way home, I stopped by the Westlake Plaza and went into the corner florist. I told the lady that I wanted to have some flowers delivered to my Mom at work, and she showed me some design books. Most had fall colored arrangements, which were pretty, but not what I had in mind. I wanted something that would pop.
“I want something to look very country, but like the most beautiful summer day. I want it to look like someone just gathered a ton of summer wildflowers- the prettiest, softest looking flowers you can imagine… and there has to be some blue, which is my Mom’s favorite color.”
“I think I know what you want,” she smiled. There was no picture which exactly matched my idea, but I trusted her. We arranged for the delivery, and it was all set.
The day arrived. I will never in my life forget Mom’s face when she walked through the door after work that birthday evening!
“Oh, honey!” Mom exclaimed as she came in through the door. “Oh….. I can’t believe it!” Mom set the flowers down on the table. They were absolutely gorgeous. “They barely fit in the car! I had to put them on the passenger floor and scoot the seat back just to fit them!”
Mom came over to me with her arms open. “What am I going to do with you?” She smiled. We hugged. Mom pulled back to look at me, “You shouldn’t have….. but I’m glad you did!”
“Happy birthday!” I smiled. “I wanted you to have the best flowers. You’re the best, and you deserve the best flowers.” Mom was so happy.
“You wouldn’t believe it,” she began, “They came just after I got back from lunch. The girls in the front were gone. So you’ll never guess- one of the kids from the mail room walked them down to me- all through the aisles! They were so tall and beautiful, everyone was remarking. I saw them coming but never imagined they were for me! So he passed desk after desk after desk, and finally he stopped at mine! I thought he’d made a mistake, but there was the card with my name on it….. Oh, honey….”
Every year after that, I sent Mom flowers- always requesting something similar, something bright and happy, wild and wonderful- something with with a touch of blue, Mom’s favorite color.
Here we are, the Three Musketeers. That’s what Mom called the three of us, after Dad passed away. Mom said we were the three women in Dad’s life- his mother, his wife, and his daughter. She used to say the three of us were making our way together like the Three Musketeers.
I found this photo last night while going through slides. I just stared at it good and long. There we are, our first Easter after Dad died. And there is Mom standing tall, dressed all pretty, smiling while in the middle of an obvious lupus attack. Her face is all swollen, and I remember when a lupus attack hit, often she would have a fever spiking at 103 degrees or so. Mom would tell me her head felt like it was swollen from the inside, wobbly on her shoulders. And she would have an enormous headache.
In the slide just before this one, you can see the lupus even more so, a solo picture of Mom which John took. And in front of Mom are the same delicious looking, homemade cupcakes which appear in Easter pictures going back to 1954, Steve’s first Easter. There is a display of eggs we colored, and the table looks so pretty. It was my first year without an Easter basket. Mom suggested we pick out my stuffed bunny together that year, and we did. She asked me if I wanted something a little extra instead of a basket. I asked for Paul McCartney’s lp “Ram,” which I’m holding in the picture.
We woke up, no egg hunt that year for the first time. No Dad. But we got dressed up and went to church. John bought the three of us corsages. He was good this way. None of us could “fix it” but we all tried in our little ways to put one foot in front of the other. Mom reminded us that Easter was about Jesus, and the message was just as important this year, maybe more so, because now Dad was enjoying Christ’s heavenly promise.
During this time, and in spite of multiple lupus flair ups, Mom was going every day to West Valley Occupational Center in order to re-enter the work world full time, after being home with kids for 24 years. She had wanted to be a working Mom, but Dad wanted her home, so she stayed home. That’s how it was. Sometimes Mom mentioned how unfair it was, that if she had been allowed to continue at the phone company she would have been a supervisor by now, dragging in good pay. Instead, she was slogging back to school, learning new computer skills (word processor), polishing up her typing and ten key, and learning medical terminology. Grandma and I would test Mom on her words at night, the medical words. And sometimes she felt she couldn’t do it. But she did. She left West Valley with an award for determination. I was so proud of her.
In fact, it was funny because when she went in, initially, they had her take an aptitude test. She prayed and asked Dad to be with her. It wound up she scored highest in ability- that is, her number one choice for a job- was in agriculture, like Dad!! Mom laughed and said, “Edmund, when I asked you to help me, I didn’t mean this!” Mom’s second choice was… they told her she would make a good cowboy! haha! So Mom went out and bought a Mr Bill pin, a cowboy, and he was shooting himself in the foot. Mom wore that all the time to class. “Honey, you’ve gotta laugh,” she’d say.
When Mom tried to get a job in a doctor’s office, an oncologist, the office manager told her she was too close to the tragedy of losing my Dad, and that it was maybe a bad idea to work in a doctor’s office. So Mom worked for Mr Weston instead, up at the Westlake Landing. He was nice enough, but when he said Mom would not have a vacation the first year, she quit. “I told him my daughter needed me to have a week off, that she just lost her father this year. He said no, so I quit.”
All these thoughts and memories come back looking at this Easter picture, the whole time, things going on. Mom was the glue which held us together. She kept us looking nice, going to church, and kept things as “normal” as life could be, considering we all were gutted from missing Dad. What I see in this picture is all Mom’s tremendous courage. There she is, swollen from lupus, not knowing what job she would find, kids to raise, and she has the courage to dress up, bake cupcakes, and think of others. That all of us could be so courageous.
I was always feeling so protective of Mom. There were so many instances where she would endure human mistakes with, well, just a bit too much understanding. Full of the fires of youth, I often appointed myself her protective guardian, when in fact it was the other way around.
One such time was when we were at Knotts Berry Farm in the early ’90’s. It was the era when gangs would flock into Knotts, representing the various fractions of Buena Park. They’d often walk side by side, and if you did not move, you might be pushed aside. I was on high alert that day. If any group came close, I’d link arms with Mom and steer this way or that. Mom was only in her early 60’s, but her frail body and bones worried me.
That day, though, it wasn’t the tougher side of Buena Park we needed have concerned ourselves with, it was the more maternal segment of society. As we walked down the wide sidewalks planning our route, I’d scanned behind me and noted we were okay. Only a Mom with a few kids paced closer. Looking at the map Mom was holding, I gestured to something that looked fun. Just then, and at once, I heard the stroller wheels as I saw Mom crumple backwards over the stroller and onto the pavement. I screamed.
“Mom!!! Are you okay???” I was hysterical. When Mom had been diagnosed with osteoporosis, I had read stacks of books. I knew that once a hip was broken, a person would often die within six months.
Examining the heel of her hand, Mom pushed herself toward standing. The woman assailant looked almost unperturbed, looking forward as if we were an inconvenience in her day!
“I think so, Honey,” Mom answered me, getting up.
I looked at the women, tempted to size her up and take her down. I was MAD. No, not mad… furious.
“What did you think you were doing?! This is my Mom! You ran over my Mom!” I yelled at her.
“Oh, sorry,” the women was practically examining her nail polish. She was THAT unconcerned.
“Honey, just let it go,” Mom told me. Then she looked at the woman and politely articulated, “Next time look where you’re going. The next person you run over might be seriously hurt. That’s a stroller not a battering ram.”
The woman mumbled she was sorry once more, and hurried on.
After the woman was out of hearing range, Mom added, “fat ass.”
Last night I dropped M off at the movies with her friends. A gaggle of teens lingered around the front of the theater, all engaged in typical teen protocol- texting, sneaking glances at the eye-catching, and then back to more texting. The giggling and talking swirled skyward, in accelerated volume like a Saturday night tribal choir.
My adolescent experience hadn’t been so lucky, socially speaking. I didn’t often have someone to go to the movies with. Many Friday and Saturday nights would find me home in my fuzzy slippers, paging through teen magazines, or even – studying. It’s good to get all the studying out-of-the-way so that when “everyone calls”- perhaps on Sunday they will call- then church would be the only impediment to all that teen fun.
The UA movie theater at the Oaks Mall was the place to be weekends in 1983. Midnight movies would bring the teens by the droves, with music and hair both set to high volume. The choices might include: The Song Remains the Same (Led Zepplin), The Kids are Alright (the Who), Rocky Horror Picture Show, Heavy Metal, The Wall (Pink Floyd), and a few others. Rocky Horror was always standard, with everyone dressing up in character, repeating movie lines loudly in chorus, and talk of throwing things at the screen. The Rocky Horror show scared me- it seemed so odd- and the only girl at school I knew who went was Dee Dee Wood, who more or less really disliked me. I extrapolated other Rocky Horror folks would likely dislike me, too, so I stayed far away.
I’d never been to the midnight movies, but I really wanted to go. Everyone talked about it, and I wanted to go so I could 1) see what the fuss was all about 2) feel like part of the popular crowd and 3) talk about it casually-yet-loudly-enough-to-be-overheard at a later time. Of course, I’d practice sounding cool and nonchalant beforehand.
When I told Mom, she said, “Midnight movies, huh?” John had gone many times with all his friends, mostly to see The Song Remains the Same. John was not a Rocky Horror type person either. He would have just raised one eyebrow and shouldered far, far around anyone like that.
“I really want to go. I want to see The Kids are Alright,” I relayed. “Keith Moon was cute.” I liked the way he peeked, wide-eyed over his drum kit, and kept standing up. It made me laugh.
“Well, I’ll go with you?” Mom offered.
“Would you?” I was still at the age where it would be highly uncool to be seen in public, let alone voluntarily and socially, with a parent. Still, I felt hopeful. My first thought was that if no one I knew was there, or- if we arrived a bit late- we might be seated quickly. No one might notice me. I could still accomplish goals 1 through 3, especially number three.
So Mom and I went off to the movies. We got there a bit early, and I positioned myself in an inconspicuous place against the wall. Mom didn’t exactly blend. We’d wandered among metalers, mods, punkers, and Rocky Horror folks who were pushing and shoving, playing their boom boxes, being talked to by mall security, etc… Then there was me, dressed like a hippie in preppy drag, out in Sunday best with my Mom. And there was Mom, who was rocking a very mid-century modern type look. She had on a sensible length skirt ensemble, white sweater, buttoned a few times toward the hem, a conservative square-shaped purse, nylons, and half-inch-heels, open-toed. Mom’s hair was sprayed with so much hairspray that she gave the younger hair band wanna-be’s a run for their money.
What I felt was a mix of teen angst and adult gratitude. After losing my Dad so young, I knew I would not have Mom forever. I knew a day would come when this would be a memory and all the worth of these strangers would not amount to a teaspoon of vinegar in the wine of life. I knew, mentally, to cherish Mom and her willingness to go with me. I knew she was not going because she was itching to see the Who rock Thousand Oaks. And I was hyper aware, as always, of mortality and love. Mom must really love me to be willing to go with me. She held her head high past many a sideways glance, and adopted an air as if to say, “My money is the same color as yours.” And that was that.
However, being a teen, with teen emotional sensibilities, I knew the reason I was not there with members of my fellow pack was because I was somewhat of an oddball. Had I been socially more skilled, then I would be there gawking at the teen boys with some compatriot.
I will always remember going in and stubbornly holding fast to the conviction, “This is my Mom and my best friend and if you…or you… or you… don’t like it then…. too bad!” I would set my jaw and use my teen defiance as a resource. Mom and I got our popcorn and drinks and settled in for the movie. They showed a DEVO movie first, a collection of videos from them. Mom was giggling next to me. She leaned over and whispered, “Why do they wear those silly hats? Are they in disguise? Hiding from someone?”
Part way through the movies, I used the restroom, and on the way back to the seat sauntered with the swag of a real teen. I used a walk I couldn’t use with Mom. She’d have asked why I was walking funny, had I hurt my leg?- knowing the whole time I was trying to saunter, but trying to discourage me from trying on a new (false) persona. She liked the one I had going already. Let me say though, I remember that strut back to my seat and how very cool I felt. Queen of Me… and then I quietly scooted in next to my Mom.
The Kids are Alright came on, and I felt the coolness to my bones. This was life, you bet! This was Fonzie-level cool. Mom leaned over and whispered a little too loudly, “Oh, so these fellows don’t wear any silly hats?!” The people in front of us looked half back at us, and I sank a little down into my seat. “No, no, Mom, they don’t.” Mom was terribly amused.
We watched the movie and gathered up to leave. So far I had not spotted any classmates. The angel on my one shoulder said, “And if you do, proudly introduce them to your Mom who loves you enough to go to the midnight movies.” And the little devil on the other shoulder sneered, “If you walk quickly no one might see you. Then on Monday you can refer to going to midnight movies with ‘a friend’.” Upset with my own disquiet and lack of fully saturated gratitude, I forced myself to walk slowly. I would not give in to that side.
No doubt Mom knew what was going on, what I was feeling. She could read me like a book. She put her arm around me on the way out and tried to repress her giggles over what she considered an amusing spectacle. She was teaching me how to not take myself so seriously.
So, this is my coming-out-as-a-nerd story. World, I went to the midnight movies with my Mom. And we had an awefully good time. And she loved me enough to go. And we also had laughs for many years, long after I left worries about coolness behind me. Times I would ask her, “Wanna go see a movie?” or “Want to see a movie with me and the kids?”… Mom would giggle and inquire, teasing, “Will this one have those men with the funny hats in it?”
Since my last post, I’ve had several more times where a knocking has woken me in the morning, all about the time Mom would have arrived in the good days. Each time I check, and each time there is no one visible. Once since my last posting, I was awaken from a sleep by a (rather loud) piano sound, two chords each played three times: one, one, one… two, two, two. I sat up in bed, wondering who would be playing piano so early in my morning. Derek, our neighborhood teen pianist? No. Not this early. C’s girlfriend? Maybe. Let’s see.
Out I went and the house was still. No one was awake yet, and yet the sound was so real that it prompted me to check the house- twice. No one.
Mom always wanted to learn the piano. In fact, I bought her a little ceramic music box which was a Victorian woman playing the piano.
“I wish I had learned,” Mom would tell me often.
“You can learn!” I’d encourage.
“No, honey, not at my age. I’m too old now.”
Mom would tell me how Auntie Eleanor had been forced into taking guitar lessons, and that Mom would go to watch. Eleanor would cry and throw herself down, refusing the lessons and refusing to practice. Mom would sneak the guitar and try to learn what she had watched. Finally, Eleanor’s lessons were terminated, since she hated them so much. Mom went into the bedroom, closed the door, and cried. She told no one. She didn’t want to be a financial burden on her parents.
“Guitar was nice, but what I really wanted was to learn piano. Oh, I love the piano,” Mom told me.
I would tell her all you need to do is be able to count. When we moved near a piano teacher who taught from her home, I encouraged Mom again. But it was something not meant to be.
I had another Mom dream. We were at a Universal Studios type place, and it was nighttime. We walked along the pedestrian walk taking in the shops and activity. There was a large crowd assembled in front of one place, and I asked what the fuss was. “Michael Jackson is performing!” a giddy fan squealed. Mom asked if I wanted to wait in line, and I said no, that we’d never get in with that crowd. We kept walking.
A few shops down there was another crowd assembled. It was a fan convention for the L Word! There were posters up saying Kate Moennig would be speaking. Again, Mom asked would I liked to go in. I said ok, as the crowd was small. We went in together and sat to the side. I felt antsy though, and suggested we leave. And we did.
A small while later, E came up and joined us, as if he had just arrived.
“You two kids should have some dinner together, over there,” Mom pointed to a restaurant.
“Nah, I don’t really want to,” I explained. Eric became angry. He huffed off in the direction of the restaurant, alone.
“Honey, you should go, too,” Mom suggested.
“I really don’t want to. I want to stay here with you,” I smiled.
Mom made a kindly disapproving face. “You need to go that way,” she pointed toward Eric and the restaurant.
“I don’t want to.” I awoke.
Another dream. I’m at the back of the house and hear Mom’s voice. I know she is gone, and I am in shock and disbelief. I feel confused and completely and totally, ecstatically overwhelmed. I rush to where I hear her, and she is at the edge of the kitchen, speaking to Eric.
“Mom!!!!!!” I call out, and open my arms, tears forming in my eyes.
“Oh, just a second, honey,” she replies, and continues to- yes- gently chide and scold Eric for being untidy in the kitchen. She is telling him how I would not want him being slovenly, and how he can do things differently (better). I can tell she is happy to see me, but she impulsively wants the business at hand tended to, and the mess Eric is making supersedes sentimentality for the moment.
This is so true to what would be. Mom was forever pragmatic and not inclined to the over sentimentality while I have… at least she was not one to engage in it visibly.
I loved her all the more for it. I awoke.
Another Mom dream. She is at my house and telling me how she has something to tell me which is very important. I need to listen. I need to stop the frivolity and really pay attention. After expressing this several ways, she turns around, with a serious, set expression. She is wearing her normal clothes, but is also…. wearing a man’s bow tie!! We both bust up laughing. I awake.
A few weeks ago, I awoke to knocking on the front door. It was early, and I leapt from bed and ran halfway down the hall before I wondered who could be visiting so early in the morning. “Darn religious door-to-door-ers,” my mind scrambled, then the thought, “oh no, what if it’s the police and E was in an accident en route to work?”
I stopped short of the door and listened. Then, I went to the window and looked out. No one was there. I opened the door and walked to the street side. Looking up and down, I confirmed there was absolutely no one around.
Folding my arms, I continued to wait, looking. Maybe someone was at a neighbors door. I looked. Nothing. I went back inside, looked out the window a few more times, and finally returned to bed.
As I waited to drift back to sleep, I realized it was the time of day Mom used to typically arrive in the days, weeks, and months that followed her retirement. In fact, the light tapping type knock was her signature knock. It was with warm realization these remembrances sifted through my sleepy consciousness.
Since then, I have been awoken several more times by this knocking. A few days ago, there was a knock on my bedroom door, louder and slightly more immediate sounding. I thought it was my son, or E. But no, no one was there. In fact, Mom’s knock used to be louder inside. I always thought when she knocked a bit insistently on my bedroom door (her signature indoor knock), it was because she felt slightly shut out if my door was closed. Mom was a people person and prefered open doors in the house.
The night before last, I had a wonderful, odd dream. We lived where we live, street name I saw in my dream. I knew in my dream that Mom and I had parted ways and were supposed to meet at my house. I was a few blocks away when we had parted, and I went the usual way home.
After sitting around for maybe 20 minutes or so, E pointed out that my Mom should have arrived by now. He was right, and I was suddenly very concerned. I went out onto the street. The street appeared like one in San Francisco, tall and sloping. In between the houses across the way, I could see a myriad of activities from neighbors and cars, music and noise sifting through like a crazy street fair. This was going on one street away. Long expanses of grass were perceptible, and the mood was happy. That’s when I saw Mom from afar, and she was walking a German Shepard. It didn’t have long hair like Oz, but it was pulling her like he used to. She could barely slow him with the leash, he pulled so hard. In the dream, Mom found this funny and was laughing! She was trying to keep ahold of this beautiful shepard dog. Was it Oz in summertime, like when we would have the groomers shave his fur? I don’t know. Maybe.
Next part of the dream, Mom was by me and I heard her, but couldn’t see her anymore. It was like she was speaking from another room, or behind me.
“Honey, you need this. You NEED this type of thing,” she told me, lovingly.
I had the German Shepard in front of me, and I was hugging him for dear life. I hugged him so tightly. I felt tremendous love from the dog. I know the dog recognized me and loved me, but in the dream, I did not label him as Oz… he just knew me and loved me. I loved him so much, and hugging him was the best feeling in the world. Then I awoke.
Last night I dreamed about Mom again.
In my dream, I had not visited Mom in days. I thought this was because Ron had told me Mom was not well, not at all well, which I translated to mean she had passed away. I thought he had not used those words because he was afraid I would fall into despair. So, instead, I sat by the phone, staring at it, in a daze… apparently for days.
When I came to, mentally, I phoned her place, which in the dream was a sort of hospital, sort of rest home. They refused to tell me anything about her condition, or even if she was still alive. I became very angry and was yelling at someone on the phone.
I went to the establishment and was made to wait in the waiting room. No one would tell me a thing. I saw my cousin, Maryann, and thought she was saddened by the situation, but I knew she did not have information either. Finally, I stormed into an office and was very, very angry. They told me to go downstairs, and that Ron was there downstairs, too. I felt that I knew Mom was in a coma. I did not want to see her that way, and every step I took filled me with new fear.
I descended to the first floor, where Ron was speaking to a doctor. He was busy and could not tell me anything. I decided to find Mom myself.
I went up and down the halls until I found her. She was in a room, and looked up when I came in. She smiled and was so happy to see me. Her face lit up. She wasn’t ill-looking. In fact, she looked beautiful. But when she stood to come over to me… yes, she stood, on her own… but when she did, her knees buckled in the middle and she had to walk to me as someone does who has certain childhood syndrome where their legs buckle together at the knees. It was with difficulty she walked to me, but she was walking nonetheless.
“Mom! You’re okay! And you are walking!” I was amazed.
Mom smiled and said, “Let’s get out of here. Let’s walk around a little bit.”
We walked down the hall and into a room which had a gorgeous view, like a rolling prairie with hills and trees extending very far. It was a rainy day, and we sat to watch outside, the patchy fog, rain, and clouds, as they rolled past. In the distance was a bridge.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been to see you,” I started. I didn’t want to tell her I thought she had passed away, because I did not want to give that thought to her head as an option in any way for the future. It also seemed suddenly rude that I’d jumped to that conclusion.
I continued, “I got this job you know, and guess it has kept me so busy.” It was true, I had been working a great deal, before I had been told she was unwell.
“I know you do,” Mom said. “You got that job because I prayed for you to.” I was awestruck. Mom continued to tell me that she knew I needed a job, and so she prayed until I had this one, one which I did truly love. I don’t know what it was, but I knew in the dream it was deeply fulfilling. Mom told me she prayed for me all the time.
After a time visiting, I asked her if she wanted to go outside. The rain had let up. She smiled, and we went out. The building was tall, and it was like something you’d see back east, east coast maybe. I think it was light-colored, but made of brick of some sort. It was beautiful, and wet leaves tumbled to the ground as we took a circle around the block.
Mom still had trouble walking, and E (who reappeared then) and I helped her up on each side until she stood straight. Once she practiced, she began to walk stronger and straighter until she was nearly walking ‘normal.’
“You need some leg braces, maybe?” I offered.
“I do, they would help,” Mom said. “But when I told Ron, he wanted to buy me purple kneesocks and green kneesocks!” Mom rolled her eyes.
“Kneesocks won’t help you!” I smiled.
“I know,” Mom laughed. “But that’s Ron for you! He means well.” Mom was smiling.
“Well, we’ll bring you some leg braces,” I offered.
Mom and I had arrived back at the front of the building. We both were enjoying how beautiful the street was with the wet pavement strewn with leaves. Mom and I exchanged warm words, which I don’t recall, and then, I awoke.
Last week I awoke from a wonderful dream. I was at a house which was Mom’s house, except it was very palatial, with deep, royal reds adorning the walls and carpeting, rich complementary colors and hues which spoke of opulence. Mom was there and the time was ‘now.’ It felt so natural, some time passed where we were just chatting like any other day before I realized this could not be the case, that Mom was gone.
“Honey, I came to tell you that I can be with you for a year, one year, okay? Then I have to go back.”
“What do you mean?”
“I am being allowed to be with you, for a year’s time,” Mom looked at me in a way to communicate she knew what a difficult time I was having recently. Like always, Mom knew.
I got the sudden feeling she must have stormed heaven’s gates, relentlessly asking God to return to me this way, under these conditions.
“You can be with me all the time, this year?”
“Yes, I can.”
“Then,” I replied, “I don’t want to waste a minute. I was us to be together every minute of every day.”
Mom smiled. “Let’s go out…”
Next in the dream we were in a crowded neighborhood, almost like New York, and a man with a fancy coffee cart was there vending coffee. Mom pulled out her purse, “Let me treat,” she offered.
“No, I’ll pay!” I said aloud. Mom busted up laughing. She had been pulling my leg, it was a joke! I looked at the man vending coffee and asked, “You don’t see her, do you?”
“See who, lady?” he was impatient.
I laughed and paid for the coffee.
Dream #2- the next night
I awoke again from another wonderful Mom dream.
I was at work, and was furiously scribbling in times I had worked. I put so many marks on my timecard, then thought hopelessly how I had been working nonstop for so many days. In the dream, I felt I needed to go see Mom, who was at Sunrise. I told my boss, who was within earshot, “Look, I need time to see my Mom…”
She said some words about my having an hour off for lunch.
“I can’t see her in one hour. There is no time to visit by the time I drive there.”
She said I had two days off the weekend. I had been working split shifts and by the time I could leave for good, Mom would be asleep.
“I don’t want to wait til the weekend. I want to see her today.”
I left for lunch with Eric, and he said to me, “We’ve got this worked out. Your Mom knew you wanted to see her. Ron and I worked it out. Soon they will be building a place where you two can visit, right here at work. But until then, we’ve got it covered.”
As we headed to the parking lot, I followed Eric’s lead, still upset that I couldn’t visit with Mom. As we went toward the car, I saw Ron standing outside the car, and Mom was inside, sitting in the passenger seat. Ron was talking to Mom and gesturing wildly with his story. Mom began really laughing! I looked at Eric and was so happy.
I skipped one night, then was awakened by another Mom dream.
Eric, M, and I were headed into a fabric store. It was retro inside, and the line divided so that the customers nearest checkout were at the register, and those needing to be checked out next were a little ways back. Between the two, shoppers passed into the store.
As we drifted through the cross-sected line, I saw Mom’s back, up at the front ready to check out.
“That’s my Mom!” I called out.
“It can’t be,” Eric replied.
“It IS, I know my MOM!” I responded. Eric was walking fast and not inclined to stop. I called back, over my shoulder, “Mom!!!?” And Mom turned, and I saw her in profile, and she was aware of me, but wouldn’t turn all the way, like she was teasing and being intentionally sneaky. It was like she was amused and playing a game, in fun.
I went into the store, and there inside… was a big field, like a pumpkin patch, but filled with sunflowers. The autumn light filtered through the tall plants, and also there were decorative sunflowers there, with smiley faces. It was gorgeous and sweet looking. I smiled. “This …. is why life is beautiful!” I thought.
We went across to another area, inside the store now, and I was following the sound of Celtic Christmas music. There was a woman there doing crafts with a baby by her side, and she would show the baby her work. I went to the right side of them, then back. The woman called me over. “You don’t have a sweater for Christmas, do you?”
“No, I don’t,” I replied.
“This is for you,” she said, smiling. “It is a beautiful sweater and will look so nice on you.”
“I can’t just take it?” I said.
“It’s yours,” she winked, “You won it.”
I looked at the sweater. It was beautiful and sparkley and so well made. She then gave me a Christmas dress which was a slip dress, in red. It turned into an autumn dress in muted browns and rusts. Both were lovely.
A few steps later on, another woman offered to give me another dress. “I can’t take all the dresses?” I puzzled. I didn’t want to be selfish, and everyone was gifting me with free things!
“This is yours,” the woman insisted, “and look at the story of the design.” She pointed to a book which showed the dress had been made by a designed who took ideas from late 1800’s farm dresses, exactly the period I had been studying. It was wrapped up, so it was a surprise until I would get home.
I continued to be puzzled as to why everyone was handing me free gifts, and then I awoke.
Every Christmas we looked forward to the Sears Wish book. Dad would bring home only one copy, and Mom would hand it to us ceremoniously. “Now, kids, you share,” she’d say, and we shared with the ethics of wolves. We shared fists and shoves, but not the book so well. John, being bigger, got to look through it at leisure, exaggerated leisure, while I pested him as best I could, treading his “shove me off the couch now” emotional borders. When I became distracted, he would instigate, “Oooh, look at this….” and turn a shoulder so I couldn’t see. Back and forth, escalating to greater tease and discontent, until Mom stepped in and commandeered the catalogue several times.
Finally, it would be my turn to see the catalogue. “John, you’ve had your turn,” were the magic words, and Mom would deliver it to me. I’d stick my tongue out at John, and Mom -her back to us while walking away- would scold, “Lorraine, don’t stick your tongue out.” John would smirk, “I didn’t want it anyway,” and find something else to do. Occasionally, he would saunter past as I wildy dog-eared pages, and knock the book off my lap onto the floor.
“Mom, Lorraine threw the Sears book at me!” he’d call out.
“If you kids can’t share, then maybe we’ll have to tell Santa he better not stop here this year,” Mom would call from the kitchen, as she stirred the pots for Saturday dinner.
I’d curl up in my cozy, flannel, footed pajamas and marvel at the enormous world of Barbie. The Sears Wish book was one of the only times I saw the entire line of toys all in one place. Sometimes when we would be at the mall Mom would let us go into a toy store, but often we didn’t have time. Certainly we wouldn’t travel down the mall just to look. Seeing the Sears book was glorious. I imagined the world I could create for Barbie, Ken, and my favorite- Malibu skipper. Were they destined for the plane? They could take a trip to Hawaii, which could be the pool and the ocean could be the top step. Should they acquire a camper? I could roll our shag carpet back and they could visit the rocky mountains in the high altitude of the couch. Maybe Barbie needed a car upgrade. Ken loved cars, and that would bring her some extra attention. The Wish book contained my wishes, but since they impacted so many- Barbie et all, Krissy and Velvet, the horses, and the host of stuffed animals- then each scenario must be accounted for and considered.
There I was, hair in spongy rollers, deciding the fate of a small nation. Eventually, dinner would be called, and after dinner I’d call Maryann to ask her thoughts on these important matters.
Mom and Dad mapped out a Christmas budget with the solid structure characteristic of our household. Dad told us we could earmark or circle as many toys as we wanted, but Santa had $75 to spend on each of us. Further, Santa only shopped Sears. Our holiday bounty always seemed to stretch closer to the $100 mark. Years later I realized Dad was passing along his employee discount. Each year $75 was spent, but an extra $25 added, due to Santa’s employee discount. Christmas magic right there.
In spite of the excitement surrounding the Wish Book, Christmas rituals extended beyond its pages. In fact, since we shopped at home, we didn’t need to go shoulder to shoulder in the toy isles of December. We had time for other things, like the annual ritual of cleaning our rooms out, “making room for new toys.” Closets were cleared, and Dad piled all gently used clothes and toys into the car until it looked like the Grinch’s sleigh. He, Mom, and I would make a trip to the orphanage. The family also had time to clean the house- top to bottom. When we received Jesus into our hearts and homes, both better be clean. We had time to bake cookies and light Advent wreaths and watch cheap claymation Christmas television. Mom took me out shopping for Dad (a tie), and Dad took me out shopping for Mom (slippers). The first Monday in December Dad penciled in a full day off work, and he and Mom decorated while John and I were at school. Mom loved that day, having Dad all to herself for once. Dad would pick me up at school that afternoon, he and Mom excited to share the decorated house. I’d tell all the other kids, “My DAD is picking me up today!” and get as many kids as possible to come to the car to see him. I was so proud. I wanted the whole school to see the most handsome, brilliant, special Dad in the world.
Mom and I enjoyed reminising about the role Sears had played in our Christmas’. Sears had given us a little extra money to afford things. Dad received two ‘extra paychecks’ each year which would be slated for Christmas. Sears meant the Wish book, and it was where we got the boys their Christmas sweaters, on layaway. As children, it was where we all met Santa for the first time and sat on his lap, starry-eyed and hopeful.
Many, many years later, right around the holidays, Mom would receive in the mail a reminder of Dad’s years of service for Sears. A dividend statement accounted the Sears stock- I believe it was one share or so- which Dad had been issued as an employee benefit. Mom could decide to roll it over, or she could opt to get a check. When that check for $7 and coins arrived, Mom got such a kick out of it. “I got this you know… because I am a stockholder.” She would fan herself with the check. “What shall I invest this in?” Mom considered, smiling. “Coffee?”
the weather has caught up with me
time to bar the doors against it
and stare into my soul
time to wrap myself in grief
and watch the leaves fall in galestorm
with my hopes
once nature is bare and cold
we can hold hands
and then, under blankets
shiver together in disbelieve
which may come with trepidation
peeking small shoots
observable from my chair, my candle, my blanket
and if she is convincing enough