A year ago today I lost the most important woman of my life. I realize that it’s okay to be sad today. People have been telling me that for the past week. But I don’t want to be sad today. I want to remember my mother as the amazing, joyful, brilliant woman she was. Last month I started writing down the memories I have of her. Most of them are silly. Some of them are sad. But all of them remind me that for the 22 years I had her, she was the best mom in the world. I want to share some of those memories with all of you. I want to keep the memory of her alive, even when the rest of her isn’t.
Six Flags was one of my mom’s favorite places to go during the summer. We went with another woman who had kids which meant there were two adults and five children. To make sure we all stayed together and never got lost we all wore matching shirts. I remember waiting all spring to get that shirt because the second we got it meant we would be going to Six Flags soon.
Once during the summer softball season Mom and I didn’t want to go to our games. I don’t know why. Probably because we wanted to stay home and eat Taco Bell and watch Real Housewives reruns. We went out on the back porch for an hour doing a “rain dance” so our games would get rained out. They both did.
For my 13th birthday Maroon 5 was coming into town. I wanted to go so bad but it was downtown and I didn’t know anyone who could afford to go with me. Two weeks before the concert she surprised me with three tickets-one for me, one for her, and one for any friend I wanted to come with me.
I remember all of the Thanksgivings we’ve ever had together. Mom always wore her pajamas all day because “the china is fancy enough”. She would wear one of the 5 sweatshirts she had since ’95. I would always make mashed potatoes and the turkey was done when mom was too drunk to care anymore. Every year ended with the same thing–a spoon on the nose contest.
When I was going through my angsty phase I was making fun of her because she got mosquito bites and I didn’t. I’m sure I put her through more that day because she turned around and snapped “You know why mosquitoes don’t bite you Catherine? It’s because you’re bitter!”
Every year we went to a family friend’s house for New Year’s Eve. Every year mom indulged in hot apple cider. One year she indulged a little too much and decided she would get up on the coffee table and try to dance like Fergie.
I remember when you took me to get my wedding dress. The first one I tried on was awful. I knew in the dressing room that it would absolutely not be the dress I wanted. It looked like I was wearing a tablecloth. When I came out to show mom she started crying. She couldn’t stop telling me how beautiful it looked. When I told her I hated it she said, immediately “Well, good, because you look like you’re wearing a tablecloth.”
After the second time her cancer came back mom opted for a single mastectomy. She was out of work a lot longer than the first surgery and the recovery was more intense so she got used to never wearing a bra. On her first day back at work she called me at the end of the day. She had yoga and needed me to bring her a bra, because she forgot to put one on before she left for work.
My mom has always been an inspiration to me. She’s super-mom. At age 50 she went back to school to get her Master’s Degree in library science so she could be a school librarian like she always wanted. She worked for her degree during her illness, during her full time job, during two daughters being away at college. I was so proud of her when she graduated but I was so disappointed in myself because I was contemplating dropping out. When I made the decision to leave school I was terrified to hear her say she was disappointed in me. Instead she told me, “You are the only person who knows what’s right for you. As long as you are happy, you are making me proud.”
I will never forget you, mom. You are with me every day and you will be a part of my heart forever. You taught me how to love, how to accept myself, how to know when to say no, and how to stand up for what I believe in. I can only hope to be 1/10th the mother you were. Sleep easy, Alice. I hope you’re enjoying Wonderland.