My mother used to gush about how well beer went with chocolate and I agreed, so every time I enjoy a nice amber ale and there’s chocolate nearby, I have to indulge. It’s the little things like this that make me feel closer to her. I wish I could have introduced her to how good chocolate is with wine, though – especially dark chocolate with red wine!
The last gift she ever gave me was a set of decorative, pewter measuring spoons with etched hearts all over them. Every time I reach for those hanging in my kitchen, I taste the familiarity of the bittersweet memory. I had just moved to Brooklyn and she mailed them to me the way we used to mail each other during my college years. When I retrieved the large, white business envelope from my mailbox on that drab, New York winter day, I could see and feel the awkwardness of its shape – it certainly wasn’t just a greeting card inside there. Little did I know that was the last time I’d ever receive mail from my mother.
She loved having her hair brushed or played with, so every time someone brushes or plays with my hair, I feel a pang of guilt for each time I denied my mother that simple, temporary joy. I’d give anything to feel her hair between my fingers, to run a brush through the length of her locks.
Whenever I’m at the beach, I look down in pursuit of the smooth, colorful sea glass my mother collected and loved so much. I recall her joyful smile while lounging in the sand and soaking up the sun one morning on a beach in Malibu, her ability to enjoy the silence that was so opposite of my inability. I wish she were around to teach me how she did it and to tell me what she enjoyed most about it.
It is all about the little things and there’s nothing like losing the most important person in your life to make you realize this. If she were still alive, would snail mail mean as much to me? Would I still deny brushing her hair whenever she’d ask? Would chocolate be just another snack and would I even look for sea glass when perusing coastal lands? The truth is the little things have always meant a lot to me even before losing her but their meaning is so much deeper now, so much more sentient.
It’s almost your birthday. I dislike this day now because you’re not around to celebrate it and blow out the candles. I will still do things to keep you in memory. When I go sea glass hunting, I’ll be wishing you were somewhere along the beach, peering over into the sand, finding a very special piece of sea glass – a rare red or something! At which point we meet halfway and you’re eager to show me its beauty and place it in the jar. I feel so alone all the time mama – I really wish we could talk. You’re such an amazing listener – I wanna listen to you now. As usual, I don’t how know to live without you. I can’t figure it out, mama. I cry myself to sleep because me against the world is exhausting. You and me against the world is easy as pie. You made me believe I could conquer anything – achieve everything. How do I learn to love myself again without you? Maybe the problem is that I don’t want to. I want to live with you. I miss you more than anything. I love you always.
One of my mama’s very favorite things to do when she would visit me, in Los Angeles, was to go sea glass hunting on the beaches. The spring of 2010, I took her to El Matador beach in Malibu, my favorite beach in Southern California, by far. We spent the afternoon exploring the caves and rocks, taking pleasure in the soothing feeling of the sand between our toes and hunting for tiny pieces of smooth, colored glass. It was always the simple things in life that brought joy to my mama, another virtue she appreciatively bestowed upon me.
It’s incredible knowing what I know now that I didn’t know April 3rd of this year – knowing the loss of myself wasn’t primarily about losing my mother and knowing that she’s always with me, even in her death. The loneliness is still a factor but it’s manageable and I still find myself desperately craving my mama’s ear but I’ll just start talking to her. She may not respond but I know she’s listening and I know she’s proud of me and that makes me against the world easy as pie now. ;-)
Thanksgiving of 2011, I was back at El Matador beach with my mother, only, I was solemnly spreading her ashes along the shore and into the anxious surf. It was strange and bittersweet doing so in that a little over a year prior I was walking along the coastline with her. On the long drive there, I deliberately listened to Jackson Browne’s, “The Pretender,” on repeat, as that was one of our songs and it always reminded me of her. In anticipation of what I was about to do, I cried hard and I cried a lot. One might think it hard to visit this particular beach now but in actuality, it’s peaceful. I liken it to folks who visit their deceased loved ones at a gravesite – I go to El Matador beach in Malibu.