Yesterday was Mother's Day and today would have been my mother's 79th birthday. I actually had to check the math on a calculator because how could my mother be 79? The answer is that she really can't be because she is frozen in my mind at 73, the age she was when we said our last words to each other, "I love you" and "I'll see you next time." I think of my mother often as she is the central character in so many stories of my past, the ghost I still fight in my mind, in my parenting. Of course, time does give perspective if not complete healing and I can see her differently than I used to, can find comfort in memories of a well-timed smile, the way she chewed gum, her strength and pride, her determination. I can hold onto the best of her in a way that I couldn't before and I find that sometimes, I want to keep her close to me as equal parts inspiration and cautionary tale.
I have two of her wedding rings - one from her marriage to my father and one from her marriage to my stepfather. I have no memories of her wearing the one from my father so the one from my stepfather holds more meaning. I can close my eyes and see it on her finger, can remember her hands and her perfectly manicured nails that never gave away that she preferred to spend most of her time in the garden, working the earth.
On the day of our wedding, I slipped her wedding ring onto the ring finger of my right hand as if doing so would somehow bring her along, as if doing so would send a message across time that said, "Look how far we've come." I never thought I'd see the day I would legally marry and she never did.
I slipped her ring onto my finger once again as I headed to the theater for Listen To Your Mother last Thursday. The setting on her ring is flashy in a way that I have never been but I wore it anyway and took her along. All night I was aware of that ring because every time I tried to put my hands in my pockets - which I do more often than I realized - it would catch. Each time was a reminder, a whisper of "I am here." And as in life, there were times when that presence irritated me which felt right too.
This blog, my writing, Listen To Your Mother are all proof of how much good can come from the hardest things. I am here and she is too - in the face I see in the mirror, in my hands, in the way I throw my head back and laugh loudly and without apology, in the way I grit my teeth and purse my lips when I am determined to get my way. But there is more to me and I find that I trust that to be true more than I did in the past. Each time one of my children curls onto my lap or snuggles closer to me in bed, I know that I am also making my own way. We are here. The good and the hard. Together.