My life, rather like most people’s (I suspect), is rather circular in nature. This feeling has been coming up on me in part with the coming of Mother’s Day in the U.S., which translates into one of the bigger marketing campaigns of the year and always throws me into a reflective mind. My e-mail inbox has been inundated with basically every store that I’ve ever bought anything from (and there are a lot) trying to convince me that buying their stuff would make my mom happy. Only my mother is no longer in a place where material goods will do much for her — and has been for nearly five years, so this makes me rather grumpy. My mean streak enjoys making reference of this to every cashier who tries to convince me that my mom would really like a cheap bright pink travel mug for Mother’s Day (they never knew *my* mother – obviously), but mostly I’m trying to wait out the holiday with patience. Still, the constant references keep putting memories that I hadn’t thought of for most of the years she was alive back in my head. Death is a funny thing. I had mostly given up on having much of a relationship with her when she was living, which must have made me more angry than I ever let myself consciously know, because I never thought about the good times when she was alive. But now they’re mostly what I remember when I think about her now.
Most of the good memories come from my pre-teen years. By the time I hit about thirteen, the distance between us was well established. But there were a lot of years there where my mom was my favorite person. I didn’t have a lot of friends as a kid, since I always seemed to stick out. (My utter fondness for the game of Frisbee aside, I just didn’t have a lot of interests in common with kids, since they weren’t into trying to stuff every possible fact they could find into their heads. I actually had a goal of reading every book in the library at one point…yeah. Nerd.) We were close, but then something happened. Maybe it was just that our basic personalities were so disparate that we probably never had a chance.
But there were good years, years filled with Friday nights on the fold out couch eating popcorn and watching movies, years where she put the piano in my room and let me play the same songs over and over again, years where we spent hours upon hours discussing the cats and playing Tetris. I remember stealing her ice skates from her closet and walking around on them in the apartment complex grass, wishing that I lived in a place where you could go ice skating, the way she’d grown up doing. I used to hide in her closet and look through the photographs and put on her dresses from when we lived in Japan. I used to pass the hours just waiting for her to come home so that we could sit and have our subpar dinner, neither of us being much in the way of cooks. Then there were the nights we spent baking things out of the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, brownies and cookies. Baking we had down.
And then there were the rest of the years, where we were strangers to each other, where I learned not to look for her company or approval. When I was a teenager, we more or less lived as roommates (I was obviously the freeloading kind). I was such an independent beast that when I was sixteen, I planned a trip to Scotland to go look at universities on my own, she let me set everything up and took me to the airport. I was independent just like she was. Once I moved out two years later, she and I would often go months without any kind of contact. I made a lot of effort to try and include her in my life when I first moved out, but it wasn’t long before we only got together to introduce each other to our various boyfriends and respond to family emergencies. I don’t think either of us had any idea how to have a mother-daughter relationship. When she first died, it was tough for me to sometimes remember that she was dead, because our everyday relationship was so similar to when she was alive. I think that with time that we probably would have worked it out; there’s nothing like raising a teenager yourself to give you perspective on your own teen years. We just ran out of time about twenty years sooner than we should have.
Life is funny like that. No guarantees.
This last year we’ve had the roommate that mattered from my twenties living with us. He’s going to be moving out at the end of the month, which sweeps me back to when I decided to move to New York and left him behind. I don’t know how conscious I was of it in my early twenties, but he was a huge part of the replacement family I formed to replace my own when it became clear that mine wasn’t going to be around. This time he’s only going about fifteen miles away, but I am still a little sad about it all, as it’s been nice to go back to earlier days. I think part of it is knowing that I’m not really in the carefree roommate phase of my life anymore; that I will be married, which is, I imagine, going to change everything, even though my Beloved and I have agreed that he’ll always have a place in our home if he wants it. But it’s not us; it’s the way my friends are reacting to us. Part of his reason for moving out is that I will no longer just be his friend – I will be someone’s *wife*. This is a time of transition and change, even though we’ve already been operating as a family since the day the Kid showed up three years ago. The way others treat us is going to change entirely. Just being engaged has been a lesson in that.
Five years ago, when my mom died, I was in a period of slash and burn. I’d ended a relationship, just finally finished off my college degree (useless, but satisfying), made the move to switch jobs and had just watched my friend that’s about to move out now move out of the apartment we were living in at the time. Then my mom died, which turned my whole world upside down. I started the new job, found my Beloved, bought a house and settled in. And here we are, five years later, with nothing but change on the horizon. It’s not bad, it’s not good, it’s just how things are. It’s also rather deja-vu familiar.
So here’s to my mom and the other moms of the world. Happy mother’s day. I hope you didn’t end up with lots of cheap crap the commercial world tried to foist on your offspring as some way in which to thank you for all the sacrifices that you made.