Every Sunday, I phone home,
Sometimes I speak to both my Mom and Dad, sometimes just my Mom with a snippet of Dad, and then on other Sundays, it’s the other way around.
I just depends. I don’t mind, I’m just grateful they are at the other end of the phone.
This morning, I had a chat to my mom for a good hour and a bit. I felt terrible because lately, I’ve been trying to push a weight off me that seems a little like a mattress; flexible, awkward and weighing me down.
She knows this, and like a mom who has been paying more attention to my life than I have, she remarked that I’d weathered these days before. And of course she’s right.
I felt bad because my folks have their own worries and I can be so moody and a downer. Yet, my Mom always seems to have the time to listen and care. It’s remarkable and priceless.
The earliest memories I have of my Mom is sitting on her lap in our old apartment in Evanston when I was very little. There are plenty more.
I woke her up one Easter morning to tell her the Easter Bunny hadn’t been, and she told me to go back to bed and come out in a little bit. And he’d been.
We used to bicker when I was just little. A neighbor in the building once asked my Mom, “Who was that you were arguing with the other day?” and my Mom said, “What?” thought for a moment and said, “Oh, that was Michèle.”
I was probably four. She deserves a medal for living with me.
She was always one for doing-up our apartment. Especially painting my room because I had a bad habit of drawing all over the walls.
She took on the dining room as well. Early one morning, I woke first and managed to pry open a paint can, so I picked up a brush. I remember painting the entire dining room-carpet, dining room table, floor, glass-fronted bookcases, windows, just about everything but the walls and she appeared in the doorway.
To this day, she said it was a miracle my Dad happened to wake early, and she gently asked him to take me away. I was lucky!
I remember holding her hand as we climbed apartment steps as my Mom canvassed for the Democratic party in the early 1970s.
There are a lot of early memories-the beach on Sheridan Road, trips to both my grandparents’, dressing up in her silky shirts and jewelry for Halloween as a gypsy, Christmases, and all the every days.
She taught me to be independent as a little girl. These days, a parent can be charged for negligence if their child wanders down the street. No so with my Mom. I was allowed to be a child, and explore my world.
My mom taught me to be vigilant. She reminded me not to lie, though in my childhood, I told some real, unbelievable whoppers. It was a hard habit to break, though I’m nearly there.
We read. I can’t recall a day all throughout my childhood when my mother wasn’t reading. She still keeps a daily diary, a ruled, ring-bound notebook. Her life is documented in these books, stacked up like an encyclopedia of her life ever since I can remember.
She has beautiful handwriting. I don’t know that it matters, but it seems so to me.
When I was just a tiny girl, my mother read to me. From her, I developed a life-long affection for reading, stories, facts and history. So much love of books and reading came from her own parents, Janice and Jex Martin, my grandparents who were rare and unique people, artists, photographers, writers and unforgettable.
Like the Martins, and my Mom, I grew up to have noticeably strong mind and opinions. What seems extraordinary was though my Mom did put her foot down on occasion, and held me to a curfew through my high school years, her leash was very long. She has a tremendous ability to forgive.
I knew overall that she was there for me. I might cop some consequences, but they were gentle consequences. Groundings or a stern talking-to. She was fair.
Always fair. And this subliminal prodding seemed to keep me on a very even keel.
For the past 12 years, I have lived thousands of miles and an ocean away from my family. Though I have always immersed myself in my life, whatever I have done, I would be lying if I didn’t say my life has suffered from being so far away from my family.
Perhaps it has made me more resilient, but likely, it has made me sometimes forget there are people in my life who love me unconditionally, who have seen me grow from a newborn to today, 45 years later. My Mom’s presence, no matter what, is a gift in my life. I hope she knows that.
I struggle to think of the day I won’t have that voice on the phone anymore, or the wonderful hugs that nobody can give like my Mom. I miss her terribly, and today, I was reminded again of her wisdom and her kindness and her love.
-The featured image is of me in the arms of my Mom (with my Dad’s camera fingers) on vacation, likely in Florida in June of 1973 when I was three-years-old.