I remember, Mama. When you’d take me to the creek and help me catch tadpoles. And then we’d bring them home and watch them change into frogs in a glass bowl, watch them become something impossibly new. I didn’t know it then, but seeing that slow evolution has given me so much more hope for my own transformation into myself...a hope that I might be in the process of becoming something impossibly new...possibly.
I remember, Mama. When we would fall asleep on the couch with the fan on in summer time. It wasn’t even that hot, but we loved the sound. I remember the soft kiss of my hair blowing on my neck, forehead, and cheeks. I remember the unassuming comfort and safety of having you close by, asleep on the couch next to me with "TV Land" showing I Dream of Jeanie, Bewitched, or Happy Days.
I remember, Mama. You wearing curlers in wet hair. I remember that you would sometimes forget the last one was there in your bangs before we left the house. I remember you doing this over and over again even with the volume you hoped would come from said curlers would never stay. Some part of me feels this was perhaps a foundational example of perseverance, that taught me repeatedly and from a young age to try, try again...even when failure happens along the way, over and over. That even when failure is assumed and imminent...trying is the thing, trying still has value.
I remember, Mama. We walked a lot of places when I was little. I always thought it was only because you liked it, and because I liked it to. But years later I realized for a while it was because we only had one car, and dad took it to work. You made it seem like a fun outing though, and it always was. I remember our family-of-three moving a lot, and I always found it to be something fun, I didn’t know it was because we didn’t have money. You always made it seem like a gift : I was getting a new room! You have always made a lot of “have to’s” seem like “are delighted to’s” instead.
I remember, Mama. That time we found a hummingbird with a broken wing. We, together, took it back home and put it in a shoe box and tried to figure out how to heal it. I remember seeing how much care you have for living things, just how much you go out of the way to help everyone, even a hummingbird who had nothing to bring to the table.
I remember, Mama. You could never help but buy anything with holiday decor on it at the grocery store. I remember you’re affection for paper towels with decorative prints on them, and how those were for eating and not for cleaning. I remember how you could never resist dancing a little bit when music would play anywhere, and if you knew even a few of the words, you could not keep yourself from singing. I remember thinking that you just couldn’t help sharing joy with those around you, wanting them to feel the energy of it too.
I remember, Mama. Birdy. That imaginary, invisible bird that you would give voice to and would tell me was flying outside our window when we’d drive places. I remember how much you love birds, how you buy expensive bird food to put out in various places in the yard, how you’ve always had a hummingbird feeder filled. I remember how you loved to watch the birds and would run outside to chase away crows and birds of prey that came anywhere close to the smaller birds which you always called the “babies.” Maybe this is a big reason why I’m am an emerging birder now.
I remember, Mama. “Are you sure?” and “They Say….” and “It’s the principle thing.” I remember you emailing me in college to tell me to wear a jacket or take an umbrella because you’d checked the weather for my city, although you were many zip codes away. Just because you cared that much about me. I remember how you could never take me to airports to drop me off because you were always sad to see me leave, but that you never missed picking me up. I remember you supporting my love of traveling and exploring even though it would break your heart to see me walk off into the unknown.
I remember, Mama. When dad deployed and we would only hear from him sporadically and only briefly and had no real idea of where he was. I remember you acting like everything was fine, seemingly like you weren’t worried about...about that possibility that we just couldn’t think of, let alone speak of. You tried to not act worried so I wouldn’t worry, and I did the same. I remember us going to the airport together to pick him up, I remember that I cried just as much as you as soon as we got sight of him...I accessed a tear level that day I thought only you were capable of in our family. But, I remember.
I remember, Mama. You having occasional disagreements with Dad. I have always been so thankful that you didn’t make it seem like marriage was a continuous honeymoon stage, that you showed me that love was a real thing, a choice you make daily, and something that can last. That it can be something sincere and strong, something you have to work at but something that works. And, I want you to know, Mama, if I never get married it is NOT because you failed to show me what a wonderful thing it could be, because you have. In fact, Mama, you are maybe one of the only reasons I haven’t completely closed myself off to the idea. And, Mama, I know you would love to throw a wedding for me, so I’m sorry if I never give that to you.
I remember, Mama. You showing me a nonsensical amount of love as a mother. Sacrificing so much of yourself and your time to devote affection and attention on me. I remember this driving me nearly out of my mind (still does sometimes), but the point is I REMEMBER it. I know others, Mama, who doubt that their parents love them - and I never could. Even in my darkest thoughts about myself, when I want to think that no one cares about me, I cannot, Mama, because no one could tell themselves that you didn’t love me unconditionally. You would make the most wonderful Grandmother there would ever be. Just know I believe that with every fiber of my being, and if you never become one, Mama, I hope you find other ways to get a taste of grand-motherhood vicariously.
I remember, Mama. All these things you have been and still are to me. I am glad to remember now and to tell you know while we can both remember together, and make new memories to remember in the future.