Posts tagged ‘mom’

The Blue Hydrangea

Two years ago today, we lost Mom.

It’s been a terribly long time. And just a blink.

I remember, on the day of funeral visitation, two of our neighbors made dinner for us. When we stopped home between the afternoon and evening sessions, there was a delicious meal waiting, the tables were set with linens and silverware, and each table held a vase of fresh-cut flowers. Our two-doors-up neighbor Diana had contributed the blooms from her own blue hydrangea bushes. I remember thinking that Mom would have loved the gorgeous simplicity of those bouquets.

After the funeral, as each bloom wilted, I felt sad and wistful, as you feel about small losses that follow a big one. Eventually, only one bloom remained. I checked on it each morning and would be so relieved to see that it had not yet wilted. That single bloom lifted my spirits. It outlasted July. It lasted through August. It lasted into September! It remained vibrant and flowering and had even sprouted new growth. The blue hydrangea on the window sill began to feel like something more than a flower. Diana and I both agreed, it was a message from Mom.

Yes. I know that conclusion is unlikely to be substantiated by any botanist. But, in times of impossible longing, we don’t really want science; we want magic.

I don’t know how long the magic might have lasted if I had just let it be, but, about midway through September, I had the brilliant idea that I should plant it. I did so, lovingly and carefully, and it looked great, for a bit. But then, one day, I looked close and discovered that the stem had become a stick.

I was so disappointed. I had failed, miserably. I had ruined something irreplaceable. And (I can chuckle about it now) I kept that dumb stick in a pot of dirt for a very long time.

Eventually, I decided I should buy one for myself, but you know how it goes. Regret dampens your enthusiasm. Times passes. You think of it, but there’s no time for the extra errand. You have no time to clear a spot in the garden. There are no blue hydrangeas in stock. There’s a global pandemic.

As of July 12, 2021, I still did not have any blue hydrangeas. Then, my phone dinged. I had a text message from Diana:  Stop up when you get a chance.

I walked to her house and there, in a plastic container in the corner of her driveway, was a plant. I said, “Is that a hydrangea!?” She nodded. She’d dug up one of her beautiful blue hydrangea bushes, dug it up, root ball and all. I gasped. We hugged. It was one of the nicest acts of kindness, one of the very best surprises I have ever had. We shared a lovely moment. Then, we were grunting and giggling as we loaded that gigantic planter into a wheel barrow.

Friends, I give you the Blue Hydrangea, life preserver, show-stopping shrub, symbol of friendship, message from Mom.  

July 20, 2021 at 2:37 pm Leave a comment

Never Forget

As time passes, we grow taller, we go grayer. We live and learn. We spread our wings and hit the earth with a thud. We swallow big wormy bites of knowledge. Our hopeful little faces get shoved behind the curtain for a good long look. And magic slips away, like baby teeth taken by force instead of fairies.

I’m five decades in, and I know storybooks are fiction. I know the good guy doesn’t always win. I’m well aware that things don’t turn out according to plan. I have figured out that the broken places are weaker, not stronger (and I remain baffled by the origin and existence of many other pithy adages).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an unhappy person or a truly cynical one, but my soul wears a tattered cape, and Hope is an aged and weary soldier who, sometimes, late into an evening, talks of retiring. I know bad things happen. I know terrible things happen. I’ve heard the unexpected phone ring. I’ve held a fragile hand. It is an awful, awful truth that you reach an age when you’re wise enough to know that the end is near.

But, here’s the thing:  Experience does not equal omnipotence.

Sometimes, you sit in a hospital room and cry — for joy. Sometimes, luck is on your side. Sometimes, prayers are answered. Sometimes,­ the news is good.

This past Sunday, our family celebrated Mother’s Day with a low-key, quiet dinner. Nothing fancy. No big surprises. Just a simple gathering with good food, three generations at the table, and lots of hugging. Best. Mother’s Day. Ever.

Some weeks ago, my Mom wasn’t feeling well, and we didn’t know what was wrong. On April 24th, we found out:  She had a bilateral subdural hematoma, which is blood accumulating in the skull, putting pressure on the brain. At 8:00 a.m. on April 26, she went into surgery.

I will never forget how it felt to let go of her hand that morning. I will never forget how it felt to wait, and only wait, because it was impossible to read or eat or speak. I will never forget that, except for some incredible luck, the grace of God, and my parents’ dogged attempts to get a fourth opinion, we would have lost her — but that is an abyss from which I must back away. So, instead, I will end with this. I will never again forget this:

My entire life, my mother’s love has been a selfless, unwavering certainty. It has been as steady an aspect of my being as breathing. So much so, that I may have at times treated it like something ordinary. Or as if it were something of mine, like a possession I earned or a prize I deserved. But it’s not about me. It’s not about me at all. It’s all about her. And I don’t know what I would do or who I would be without it.

May 17, 2017 at 7:10 pm 2 comments

The Best Mom in the World

Here is a very short list of wonderful Mom things.

1. My mom packed our lunches every day for school. And she’d leave little notes on the napkin.

2. When we were kids, she would make us (well, me and my sister only) a special Christmas dress every year.

3. Sit down family dinner–every night.

4. Georgie Girl and Galway Bay and a gazillion other piano tunes. She’d play. I’d sit beside her and sing along.  

5. She tucked us in at night: prayers, a story, and a kiss with a “Sweet dreams” or “Off to Lily White’s party” or “Shuffle off to Buffalo” or “Don’t let the bed bugs bite!”

6. She taught me how to cook, clean, sew, and iron. Not that the student has gone on to do great things, but I can handle that stuff when I need to thanks to her.

7. Her presentation of “the birds and the bees” was straightforward and loving. (And extra points for poise because it began one quiet day while we were merrily making a puzzle in the living room, and I blurted out, “Hey Mom, what does f— mean?”) (And I didn’t use the dashes that time.)

8. She taught me to walk, to talk, to wipe my bottom, to eat my veggies, to draw, to write my name, to hit a softball, to play volleyball, to put on eye shadow, to pick out a fancy dress, to waltz, to play Perquackey, to drive a car.

9. She taught me the joy to be found in simple things and the fun to be had spur of the moment. 

10. She taught us to be honest and fair. And to take responsibility for our actions.

11. She taught us to be resilient, grounded non-wimps—but she also had a great big shoulder, an understanding heart, and unquestionable love when the tragedies of childhood broke me.

12. She is still there for me. 

I could go on for days with examples and memories, but I need to stop now to prepare the house and plan a meal for Mother’s Day tomorrow.

(How she did this sort of thing on a daily basis, I will never know.)

One day doesn’t seem anywhere near a fair trade for the most giving person I know. All I can say is that I am grateful. And I know I am blessed. And I know, in at least one thing in life, I am the luckiest person in the world.

Happy Mother’s Day to my very first and most significant life preserver.

What makes your mom the Best Mom in the World?

May 8, 2010 at 4:19 am 1 comment

Thanks Mom

What is it about these curlers?

They look funny and they never hold all the hair you want them to. They sometimes even hurt a bit and they are surely an awkward item to store, but, I admit here to you today that I love my curlers. I don’t use them very often. On a normal day, I barely have time to camouflage a cowlick with the curling iron or a strategically placed barrette.

But. Every once in a while, when I have all the time in the world, I put the curlers in. And I get such a big kick out of them. I walk around. I jiggle my head. I look in the mirror and I giggle.

Today, with a jiggle and a giggle, I pondered this odd thrill. And I found myself back in time.

I am sitting in the kitchen at 312 Pennsylvania with my Mom and my sister. Curlers and pin curls in my hair. A great big balloon of a hat, puffing heat and slipping down my forehead. That balloon-hat of course was part of an old-fashioned hair dryer. For those who have only grown up with the hand-held variety, picture an over-sized shower cap made of vinyl. And picture a big tube connected to that cap, connected to a box-contraption with buttons, connected to an electrical cord, plugged into the wall. And imagine sitting, connected to all this for half an hour or longer.

Sounds awful doesn’t it? So why oh why does the memory make me smile?

Because it is something uniquely girlish – or, more specifically, uniquely mother-daugther-rite-of-passage-ish.

It belongs to a collection of moments in life when you discover the things that are (feminists be damned) distinctly female. How to bake a batch of cookies. How to set the table. How to iron, do laundry, sew on a button. Can you remember when these things were not chores? When they were exciting and new and, yes, fun.

Better yet think of the moments when your Mom let you go through her jewelry, revealing hidden treasures in velvet cases, little pouches, old boxes. Beads and gems and sparkly items. This was my mother’s. This was a gift from your Dad when we were dating. Go ahead, you can try it on.

Entrance to the inner sanctum!

Didn’t every girl, at some point in time, fall in love—and, yes, covet!—her mother’s Pretty Things? My Mom had a pair of patent-leather, ankle-high, kitten-heel boots that, to this day, I think were the most smashing pair of shoes I have ever seen.

There was a kind of magical osmosis that occurred when you witnessed her excitement when getting dressed up. In a pretty dress, wearing the special jewelry, and a bit of makeup. This was not everyday Mom who made you clean your room, stand in the corner, and finish your dinner. To trail after her as she got ready and then watch her put on her good coat and go out the front door with Dad with a big smile on her face, looking even more beautiful than ever. These were real-life Cinderella moments.

That is why, I believe, we women still, years and years and years removed from those front-door moments, get a little inexplicably giddy about things like the perfect shade of lipstick, a pretty perfume bottle, a sexy dress, a new pair of shoes. And yes, even curlers.

Curlers look silly and feel weird, but they also look and feel like a treat because they remind me of having my Mom do my hair; of being allowed to use Her Things; of feeling loved, pampered, and joyfully girlie.

That joy is not, as some may see it—or as today’s advertising and movies may portray it—a symbol of vanity or veneer. I believe these things are symbols of something to be cherished. Pretty Things are a connection to the child we were and the women we adore. Amidst the run-down monotony of work and responsibility, we remember fairy tales. Despite a few extra pounds, gray hairs, or worry lines, we may yet carry a few secret bits and baubles that reveal our true identity, our inner princess.

So, I may be spending a rainy Sunday, wearing sweats and ratty slippers, doing laundry, scooping cat pooh, and putting out the garbage, but my hair looks fabulous.

What’s one of your favorite items from your Mom’s closet, jewelry box, or dress-up routine?

March 14, 2010 at 7:51 am 3 comments

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive email notifications for new posts.

%d bloggers like this: