The greatest gift my mother ever gave me was the gift of knowing I was loved.
In a cruel and often scary world this one fact gives me peace.
Perhaps I am biased, but I think my mama is beautiful, even in a plastic garbage bag.
My family was not dysfunctional in the most literal sense of the word, but we were never “normal” either. Instead we were an artistic, eccentric lot. My mother was glamorous and beautiful, and my father was… an interesting and rebellious cat. I used to dream of a mother who stayed home and baked scones instead of being in the pages of magazines, and a father who did just about anything rather than wear pigtails and glitter nail polish.
But they are what I got, and I am grateful for them.
Such funny creatures.
There was a time when they must have been happy, for they were together seven years before I was born.
In those early days they looked wonderful together.
But times change, and so do we.
By the time I came along things were different.
There was divorce, physical separation, financial worries and solutions, arguments between adults, forced smiles, dashed dreams, survival and the ever present over-imaginative childish fears of sinister Bogeymen such as “The Goat Man”, a skull headed, cloven-footed half-man who roamed the hills behind my house eating the heads of little children who stayed out after dark; a ghoul known only to me as “Ronald Reagan” and his nuclear-face-melting-button-of-destruction;”The Terrible Terrifying Toilet Monster“, a creature so sinister and stealthy that I was forced to come up with something I refer to as “the flush and run” (I suppose it was less a “run” than a sprint for dear life, but that’s just nitpicking).
Oh the horrors.
In my fantastical and often fearsome world there was one absolute constant, the love of my mum.
There was never a morning before I turned five and went off to school that I didn’t wake up to a special note left beside my bed, in cryptic code or abstract silliness, a poem, a song, a scribble. Small expressions of love and humor and creativity that doubled as a bribe to keep myself occupied and allow her an extra hour or two of precious sleep.
There was never a birthday party thrown that wasn’t ludicrous, over the top, mad and explosive.
Yet somehow, sometimes, I doubted being loved.
When I was very little I frequently ran away to the cherry tree at the bottom of the driveway. I packed a tiny suitcase and filled it with essentials.
Inside the case went Owlie, some clean undies and a book, which I would march down the pathway with curious focus and hoist up into the gnarled, misshapen tree, where I would perch my strange, stubborn self and eat it’s cherries, pouting, acting all the while like a miniature diva in purple overalls and red rubber boots. After a few hours I would stomp back to the house and demand to know if the reason why my mum hadn’t called the police was because she didn’t love me. My mother would suppress a smile and very seriously tell me that she was about to call the police but that she had seen me in the tree and figured I was just playing.
Ah, the wicked, weird and wily ways of an only child.
And still, there was never a time when my mama traveled, and she traveled often,
that I did not receive a postcard, letter or parcel on every day that
she was gone, including the day she left and those shortly thereafter.
For years I thought postboxes were magical things for which rational scientific theories did not apply – if a human put a postcard in a mailbox in Tokyo it simply popped out five minutes later in Christchurch, New Zealand. Easy. Did my mother know how to circumvent time and space? Was her mailbox the Tardis? Of course not. She simply mailed her missives before she left so that I would never imagine that I wasn’t being thought of or missed.
When I think of the care and love that went into that sort of planning I cry.
I cry because I am lucky. I cry because I wish that every child could feel so special. I cry because I took it for granted. I cry because for many years I showed my mother a sub-par love. I cry because I think I have made her unhappy and pushed her away. I cry because my mother deserves the world. I cry because today is her birthday and I cannot wrap my arms around her. I cry because I inherited her damn emo gene and it makes me fucking cry at everything. Even this, although perhaps in this case the tears are a bit different. I cry because I wish I was little again and that we could do it all over and I could really appreciate how beautiful my childhood was, while it was happening, and how very much I was loved.
I cry because I’m not sure if my mother knows how grateful I am for all the ways she has saved me, adored me and inspired me, in my childhood and as a woman.
Perhaps this little blog will help her understand.
Thank you mama. I love you.