This Motherless Daughters’ Dream

Mother's Day for a motherless daughter

In the spring when flowers come alive with vivid colors and my birthday, on the first of May has come and gone, I unconsciously start to feel anxious like I’m skating on a thin layer of ice.   My life gets smothered with unease and dread, my two old friends since childhood.  The dread of marking another year without my mother.  Another Mother’s Day to sit quietly by and watch the whole world celebrate.  Another milestone with no memory attached, just a blank hollow space that looks like the mother-shaped hole inside me.

My mother died of a brain tumor when I was four years old and now at sixty-seven, I still cannot conjure a voice or face or hand that might remind me of her.  I’ve never caught a whiff of her perfume lingering in the air and turned to see if she was near.  “Did she even wear perfume?”  I wonder.  

Lest you think me selfish and ungrateful, my appreciation and value of being a mother myself is at the top of my gratitude list.  I am grateful for the blessing that daughters and grandchildren bring.  I humbly acknowledge these beautiful gifts of life and what sweet music it is to my ears to hear them call me Mother or Nannie.  But, the little child in me struggles.  I struggle every year with those Hallmark card commercials and advertisements for “a free rose at brunch”.  I struggle with thoughts of envy and chide my friends who still have their mothers, to cherish this time before it slips away.

In the sixty-three years without my mother, I have never dreamed of her until just last year and even then, I did not see her face.  I often have asked God why.  “Please,” I would beg, “send me a dream or vision of her to let me know I am not alone.  Help me feel her presence.”  I’m always afraid I will forget her.  Afraid, my soul will not know hers when we meet again.

In my dream, everything and everyone was in black and white, except one person.  I was running down a crowded street and searching frantically for my mother.  I spotted someone in a bright red dress and I fought my way through until I reached the red dress and I touched her.  Her face never really came into focus, I just knew it was her from the thick brown hair and the red dress, the dress she was buried in, I was told.   As she turned around, I asked, “Are you, my mother?”  I remember thinking in my dream that I should hug her or pull her to me, but it was all very quiet and serene.  She nodded yes and gave me her hand.  We stood on that crowded street and looked at each other for a while.  It was quiet all around us, like in a bubble, and I felt she couldn’t stay very long.  I didn’t want to let go of her hand, but she let go first and touched my arm, saying, “I’ve been here all along.  You are going to be ok.  You are going to be just fine”, and with that, she was gone.

When I woke up, I could not believe that I had finally had a dream of my mother.  But, I felt sadly dissatisfied because it was fleeting and strangely generic.  I wanted longer.  I wanted her to hold me and explain her thoughts….tell me she loved me.  I wanted a reunion.  Was I being petulant, like a little child that didn’t get her way?

I have since had time to process this dream and think rationally, as best I can.  There is an old gospel song entitled, “We’ll Talk It Over” by the Gaither Vocal Band.  The gist of the song is that we only know in part why things happen in our lives, but when we get to heaven, we have a chance to ask God why and talk it over.

I don’t know why my mother had to die or why my brother and I were chosen to be among the motherless.   I may never know why my dream was short and took so long to come.  But, I can choose to believe that in the by and by, as the song says, I’ll have the chance to ask my Creator why and finally understand.

And, I can choose to believe what my mother said to me in my dream.  She has been with me all along, for if I search, I can recall her presence amidst a crisis or two and her hand in mine when I needed her most.  I can choose to believe that she has missed me as much as I have missed her, and in the by and by, we will meet again.

 

I am going to be ok.

I’m going to be just fine.

I know I will.

 

 

The Christmas Corsage

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The Christmas Corsage

 

      Our house is decorated inside and out during Christmas time.  My heart is full of joy when I open the storage boxes and see my old familiar decorations just waiting to be loved and cherished.  There are so many ornaments on our Christmas tree that have special meaning because wherever we go, we purchase an ornament from that location.  A red lobster from Maine, bear paw from Yosemite, cable car from San Fransisco…you get the picture. But, there is one decoration on the tree that is above the rest, a simple silk Christmas corsage with Poinsettia flowers and a candy cane.

 

     For as long as I can remember, my Daddy always loved to decorate for Christmas.   Not until I was grown with a family of my own, did he show me a silk, red Poinsettia corsage  that lay on one of the Christmas tree branches. He told me that my mother was in the hospital her last Christmas and one of the nurses had brought her the corsage and laid it on her pillow, as a token of the season.  She died that January, exactly one month after Christmas and from that time on, my Dad would place the corsage on the tree in her memory.

 

     I’m not sure why he never shared that story before then.  As was his way, he held things in, especially about my mother.  Because my mother died so young, only thirty-three years old, his love and grief mingled too close to his heart, he feared the emotions that threatened to break him. He could little afford to let his guard down with two young children to raise alone.

 

     After my dad passed away, my brother and I divided his ornaments between us, and I received the corsage.  Every year as I place it on our tree, I whisper my mother’s name, inviting her to be with us and know that she is not forgotten. I feel her spirit and I know she longs to be with us, too.

 

     A simple red corsage laid among the baubles and bells was a generous act of kindness that carried a mother’s love all these years later.  My heart is full as I whisper “Merry Christmas Mama,” and her presence fills me for yet another year.

What Not to Do When Someone You Know Has Lost Their Mother

It doesn’t matter if it has been two weeks or 61 years, Mother’s Day can be very hard for a motherless daughter. Thank you Carmel for these words.

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The following points may seem obvious. At least they do to me, but since we are all human and nobody is perfect I’ve decided to put this list together. Also, the first thing on my list happened to me today bringing to my attention that people need reminders every now and again. In fact, all twelve points have happened to me, many of them on multiple occasions, so if you know all of this already please feel free to share it with somebody who doesn’t. It might prevent an awkward or upsetting situation from happening in the future and we all strive to be better people, right? I, for one, know that I’ve much to learn from others and their personal experiences. That’s one of the reasons I read so many memoirs.

Twelve things NOT to do when someone you know has lost their mother:

  1. DO NOT email a motherless…

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Daddy

Daddy

My Daddy was a “saver”.  A procurer of particulars…a frugal forager.  It was probably because he was a product of the Depression, but for whatever reason, if you needed ‘it’, he had it, at least one and perhaps an alternative.

However, when he died, I saw this tendency to save and how far reaching its depth.  When Daddy passed away we found many souvenirs, balls of twine, ink pens, jars of nails and business cards.  We found his report cards, measuring tapes, hundreds of bank statements and thousands of photographs labeled neatly into chronological albums.  There were boxes, bags and myriad other containers full of mementos of his life.   

My brother and I waded through his things sometimes laughing …sometimes crying.  Towards the end of our sorting, we bantered across to each other, “You take it!”  “No, YOU take it!”  Still, we filled large, black Hefty bags with things to give away or dispose of.  His obsessive ‘saving’ wore us out.  Sometimes, as we discarded, I whispered a prayer, “I’m sorry Daddy, we just have to let this go,” in hopes that he understood.

Last year I was going through a box of Daddy’s things that I had ‘saved’ seven years ago.  When I brought it home, I thought these were all things I would go through right away and look at often.  But, seven years had gone by and I had just found the strength to open the box.

Inside of this box were our report cards, Baptism announcements, college essay’s, school pictures and more.  I found an old, faded manila envelope, 8 ½ by 11, sealed with a piece of tape.  Enclosed, were letters and cards my brother and I had sent Daddy through the years; Father’s Day cards, poems, and notes we had written him and behind those were a clump of letters tied with a string….our letters to Santa Claus.

As I unfolded this one pristine piece of notebook paper, I was transported, as I read my childish handwriting proclaiming my goodness all year and a love for a certain red cowgirl outfit.  Not all of our letters to Santa were saved, but a few were obviously chosen to be put away and remembered.

My Dad wasn’t always good at saying he loved us.  He wasn’t the sentimental, huggy, mushy type.  But, after he was gone, I saw his tender side amongst the 14 retractable measuring tapes and boxes of Navy war memorabilia.

There were cards and notes his children had sent and precious letters to Santa that must have touched his heart.  Suddenly, all of this stuff he had ‘saved’, became a piece of him…a bridge to the other side, where he was standing, arms open wide, saying, “See?  I love you.  I always loved you.”  And my heart sang back, “I know.  Happy Father’s Day, daddy.   I love you, too.”

Martha Margaretha

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Martha Margaretha

Growing up, everything I knew about beauty I learned from my Grandma.  She was also my source of information on becoming a woman, wife, and mother.  Because my mother was deceased, I had no one to teach me the basics except Grandma and sometimes my Dad, which as you might expect, was not always on point.

My Grandma was raised on a dirt farm in Kansas.  They were very poor and she grew up working hard and only completing the 3rd grade.  Martha Margaretha, (her given name) although coming from humble beginnings, always wanted to look her best.  It was very important to her.

Grandma was a wonderfully accomplished seamstress and made all of her clothes, even slips, bathrobes, and nightgowns.  She also made all of my clothes until I was old enough to sew for myself.  She made my Barbies the most fabulous ensembles!  I distinctly remember Barbie having a dress out of the same fabric as Grandmas, and even a fully lined coat, complete with bound buttonholes.  Barbie never lacked for functional yet stylish outfits and neither did I.  Grandma had an eye for pattern, texture, design and she could easily visualize how our dresses would turn out while working tirelessly to make it come together.

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Martha had two main rules on beauty:  Always wear lipstick and always wear earbobs or ear screws, as she called them.  In my Grandma’s bedroom, on her dresser, was a tray that held her cherished personal items.  There was a comb, brush and mirror set that I always remember her using, and she had the most fabulous face powder in a box.  I think it was Coty Airspun loose face powder or maybe Lady Esther, I’m not sure.  But, what I am sure of is the sweet fragrance and the way my Grandma’s face felt so soft when I hugged her or kissed her.  She always smelled of this face powder and I think to this day I would know it if I were lucky enough to breathe in that precious scent.  The fluffy, round puff sat on top of this all important powder and next to it was her lipstick.

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The dresser top was balanced with a simple jewelry box.  The kind that opened up and the top folded back revealing a bottom section.  Grandma had a large collection of earbobs, necklaces, and broaches, most of which, came from us, for Christmas or birthdays.  She also had a small little Cameo that she pinned on for special occasions.  I would always ask to look through her jewelry box and try on these simple, yet oh so glamorous pieces.  Grandma truly believed in accessories!

With her beautiful silver gray hair, smart clothing, ear screws and lipstick, Martha always looked ‘put together’.  No matter how poor you are, you can be clean and neat...a Martha mantra for sure.  Everywhere she went, she would be complimented on her neat appearance, even winning Valentine Queen at her nursing home.  Grandma lived well into her 101st year on this earth.  I remember once while visiting her in ‘the home’, someone gave her a compliment, which made her proud, yet shy.  After they left, she turned to me and said, “It’s almost a curse to be so beautiful”, then she laughed and patted my hand.

Yes, Grandma, it is.  I know even now, as she sits playing Canasta in heaven, she’s looking all done up…lipstick, ear screws and that wonderful face powder.  Most of you that know me, know I usually adhere to Grandma’s two main beauty rules:  lipstick and earbobs!  Martha was true to herself and lived her life by her own rules, that’s for sure.  As CoCo Chanel once said, “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.”

I think Grandma knew that too.

 

 

I’m Okay

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“Why are you writing about this after all these years?”  “Isn’t it time to let it go and move on with your life?”  These are the thoughts and questions that others ask when “it” hasn’t happened to them. Don’t worry for me, that I am mired in depression just because I speak of unspeakable things.  I’m okay…truly.

 

I may write of memories faded or worse, never made.  I may allude to sad times or lonely situations, but only because it was my reality, as bleak as it may seem.  I’m not lonely now or sad or swimming in negativity.   In fact, quite the opposite.  I’m okay…really.

 

I don’t have a monopoly on losing a parent at an early age.  There are many of us who faced childhood with a hole in our hearts and for many different reasons.  We may still need to talk about it.  Some may need to hear about it, just to know they will heal.  We’re okay…seriously.

 

However, just because you didn’t experience it doesn’t make it any less real.  Just because such honesty makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean our honesty should not be expressed.  No one makes it out of this world alive.  No one escapes their time on earth without some type of pain or sadness.  No one.
Into every life a little rain must fall;  sometimes it’s a tsunami and sometimes it’s a steady, slow soak.  We can become okay, even joyful.  We can feel heart-overflowing gratitude.  There’s always a rainbow somewhere.  Don’t worry about me….I’m okay….really.

Thanksgiving Without You

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I’ve never known or remember experiencing a holiday with my mother.  I’ve never stood next to her in the kitchen, peeling potatoes or making a pie.

I’ve never sat next to her at a Thanksgiving dinner or sat on the floor going through albums of photographs.

I’ve never held her hand as we bowed our heads in prayer.

Too many “I’ve never”, not enough memories.