Over the last few years May has become a very weird month for me. One the one hand, it is my birth month and that is awesome but it is also the month I lost my mother, on Memorial Day no less, and sandwiched somewhere right in the middle is good old Mother’s Day, a holiday I can no longer participate in because I am not a mother myself (not to any humans that can buy me a damn gift at least) and I no longer have one to call my own anymore. This is a sad fact that I am constantly reminded of every year starting around April 1st when both my inbox and snail mail boxes become chockfull of various ways to celebrate Mom. It must be what it is like being non-Christian and having all things Christmas and Santa-like constantly in your face for three months of the year only worse because even people who don’t believe in either have mothers.
I don’t begrudge retailers trying to shift their products, even though the economy is better it is still not that great for stores, but by the end of April my patience starts to wear a little thin with everyone from Sur La Table (Give Mom All-Clad–40% off!) to Sephora (Gifts Mom will Love!) and the sense of loss and motherlessness starts to feel overwhelming. Ten years ago we celebrated out last Mother’s Day together and this year, like I have done in all the other years since she left, I will mark the occasion by visiting her memorial tree at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.
Like a lot of children my biggest fear (besides getting a shot or stitches or having to go to my great-Aunt Gertie’s house, she was crazy) was to lose one of my parents. This was exacerbated by a creepy old man from my childhood named Walt Disney who made it his life’s mission to scare the bejesus out of all the world’s children by creating animated classics about either half-orphans with evil step-parents (see: Snow White, Cinderella, Enchanted), or darling little baby animals whose mothers get killed by evil assholes (see: Bambi, Jungle Book, Little Mermaid, Lion King), I mean seriously, the man must not have liked kids at all because he sure knew how to terrify them and he really scared the crap out of me, so much so that I ran out of the theater when I saw Bambi at age five and to this day have never seen it all the way through.
But unlike most children, my fear of losing a parent at a young age had some basis in reality. My father had many health issues throughout my childhood and died when I was in a teen-ager after suffering a massive stroke. Just like Bambi I became a half-orphan and my one remaining parent became paramount in my life even if her name wasn’t Thumper.
My mother was not a perfect mother and I was not a perfect daughter because there is no such thing and anybody who says otherwise is a big fat liar-liar-of-the-pants-on-fire-variety or named Lindsay Lohan as they are practically one in the same. There is not a day that has gone by in these last almost ten years that I have not thought about her. I miss her when something good happens, when something bad happens or when absolutely nothing at all happens. The simple fact is I am never NOT going to miss her presence in my life because it was massive.
I miss the way she smelled, a wonky combination of Pond’s Dry Skin Cream (she swore by it) and Estee Lauder Youth Dew. I HATED to get into the car with her in the mornings because I didn’t like perfume smells (still don’t) so I would chomp on some Bubs Daddy grape gum because I knew she hated the smell of that so I figured we were even. Yeah, our relationship was like that and it was glorious. She also liked to pretend she did not put mushrooms or onions in my food and I would find them and show them to her and she be all like, “Hmm, I wonder how that got in there?” and I would be like really lady? I knew all her tricks and she knew most of mine.
Sometimes we fought like mad, she was stubborn and opinionated and on more than one occasion told me my hair had not looked good since she stopped doing it which of course was not true because I have great hair and everyone knows it. Back when I was in elementary school I had to hide picture day information from her or else I would end up with some ridiculous hairstyle that would not look at all out-of-place at the Miss America pageant or at a mall somewhere in bum-fuck Texas and that is not a good look on a ten-year old. (Think Toddlers and Tiara’s, minus the Toddlers because sometimes there were tiaras involved.)
It’s no surprise I got my love of books from a woman who named me after a character from one of her favorites. She took me to movies and plays and ice shows. She made the best poppy-seed cake with chocolate buttercream frosting, a to-die-for lemon chiffon pie and the best sliced cucumbers you have ever had, that in ten years none of us have been able to replicate with the same delicate balance of tangy/sweet she could do with her eyes closed and her hands tied behind her back. (I only slightly exaggerate.)
Lots of little things remind me of my her besides Ponds Cold Cream and Youth Dew. There is a stoplight on Lake Street just past France that she routinely forgot about (thankfully the cross street never had traffic on it or I would not be writing this post), White Castle hamburgers (once all the onions were scraped off ), the Lake Harriet rose garden, cheap-ass drugstore candy, Paul Newman movies, the list goes on and on. You know that old saying about turning into your mother? I am here to tell you it is absolutely true, just like my mother I am always cold, especially in restaurants and about fifty percent of the time I have a kleenex stuffed up my sleeve because I have allergies and my eyes get all watery and it is convenient as all get out.
So happy Mother’s Day to all my Oh-Amy peeps, those who are mothers, those who have mothers, and more importantly, to those who have lost either the person they called mom or a person who called them mom. I’ll be thinking of all of you sitting under my mothers tree this Sunday eating a White Castle while reading my childhood copy of Little Women, it’s my way of remembering her best.