It’s easy to write about my dad. His abrupt dying makes him the subject of nearly everything I write, in one way or another, because it’s how I force myself to remember him. It’s the only thing I can really do anymore.
I get lazy about my mom because I have the amazing good fortune of being able to text her every day, call her when I need something, cry on her couch, fight with her in person, eat her cornbread, walk with her through the garden, drink wine out of mason jar on her back porch.
It’s a luxury that I forget is a luxury.
That’s how it goes though, I guess. We take for granted our ability to remember the people we still have, right here, right now. We throw away dinner receipts and birthday cards because they take up too much space in the drawer or purse. We decline phone calls, promising to ourselves that we’ll call them back in like, 15 minutes, because we’re trying to get through this ridiculous episode of True Detective.
But then, one day, for no reason and a million reasons, they aren’t there anymore. We scramble to find something we can touch, something we can smell, something tactile to remind us that they were here, they belonged to us, we loved them.
So instead of waiting until that day to remember and appreciate my amazing mama, I’m gonna do it here, today, on her birthday.
Mom, I remember singing Bonnie Rait’s “Something to Talk About” in the car with you when I was tiny. You have the most beautiful singing voice I’ve ever heard, and we’d always belt that one out in the drive-thru line waiting for my Happy Meal.
I remember watching you make boxed brownies in the kitchen, the smell that would fill the house — chocolate and love. I remember watching you put on mascara at the bathroom sink, and the smell of your Ralph Lauren Blue perfume when you’d hug and kiss me goodbye before dropping me off at school.
I remember what it felt like when you showed up in Jacksonville that day, in a rental Ryder truck, to rescue me from one of the the most emotionally damaging, painful experiences of my life. And after 3 long years of feeling broken, I remember how seeing you and Maw instantly made me feel strong again. You reminded me of who I was, just by being there.
I remember you letting me skip school to go on history tours of all those old houses. We’d imagine out loud the lives of the people who might have lived there.
I remember all those Saturdays you’d take me to the library and wait for hours while I dug through books. Those trips made me a writer.
I remember all those mother-daughter expeditions to the mall as a kid, and sitting in the living room with you while I did my homework at night, as you watched Fraiser or Everybody Loves Raymond with Rosie. You’d always eat cereal, and it was my favorite time of day because everyone else was in their room or asleep, and we’d just talk and talk and talk.
I remember being more excited about you seeing New Orleans for the first time than I was about seeing it myself. That trip is one of my favorite memories of all time because you were so damn happy. And even in the mud and rain and amid thousands and thousands of people, JazzFest was the absolute best time I’ve ever had at a concert. Landslide forever.
I remember not long ago when we went to the symphony and got buzzed off wine in plastic cups and listened to Gershwin, and got lost in the sketchy part of town and talked about a million things listening to 90’s girl anthems on the way back home.
Mostly though, I remember all the times when you were the only person I wanted to talk to, cry to, sit with, tell stories to, bitch and complain to, laugh with, drink wine with, sing Fleetwood Mac at the top of my lungs with, take road trips with, drink coffee with.
You are the strongest person I know, and everyone you meet is a better person from having been around you.
Happy birthday, Mom. I love you. And I’m really proud to be your kid.
(And as I’m sure you’re balling your eyes right now, I’ll skip the card this year. We throw those things away, anyway).