Tell Somebody

I guess I’ve always been a writer.

Somewhere in elementary school (I think 3rd grade) there was an essay contest. The prize was the most famous Care Bear of all, Tenderheart Bear. The topic was something along the line of telling about someone who loves you a lot. That was a no-brainer.

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Tenderheart Bear

 

I wrote about my mom. I wrote my essay about how she was simply the best mom ever. Not just really great like regular moms, but over-the-top great because she was both mom and dad to me. I told about how she did all the jobs of a mom and dad and she did them all well. I wish I had a copy of that essay now. Those written words are long gone, but the feelings behind them are exactly the same. She was the very best mom any girl could ask for. She raised 7 children, most of them with a not-super-helpful husband, and the rest of them without one at all, after he passed away when I was very young.

I remember the way the tears were perched precariously inside the rims of my teacher’s eyes when she explained that I had won the contest with my essay about my mom. In a matter-of-fact way I told her, “I knew I would win! I have the best mom ever. And now everyone knows it.”

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My momma and birthday cake. What could be better?

I had my picture taken at school with that Tenderheart Bear. He’s gone somewhere now too. But I will never forget that day. I felt proud. I felt important. But not really because of my essay or because I won the contest. I felt proud that even though I didn’t have a mom and a dad, my mom by herself was super amazing. And I was getting the chance to tell somebody about it. Everybody.

 

Today, my amazing momma would be 80 years old. EIGHTY. It’s been exactly four years now that I got the sudden call telling me she was gone. Just like that. My amazing momma was no longer part of this world. No longer part of my world.

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Easter 1983. The only time I recall ever going to church with my mom.

 

It doesn’t matter at all that I am a grown-ass woman. I am a little girl every single time I think of my momma. Every year on this day—her birthday and the day she left us— I cry my ever lovin’ eyes out. I suppose it might always be that way.

I do cry because I miss her, but that’s not the main reason. I cry because I wanted to be a better daughter. I didn’t see it then, but looking back I really can’t think of that many times when I did something lovely just for her. For no other reason than to make her happy. I can’t think of many times that I just told her with words or deeds how awesome I really thought she was. She deserved to know. She deserved to actually hear it while she was still around to let it sink in. She deserved to hear the words I love you a billion times more than she ever did.

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Seven Kids. The first college graduate. That’s one proud momma. Big day for both of us.

 

I don’t feel like I talked about my mom very much when she was still around, either. I should have been telling someone–everyone– how amazing she was all the time, just because it was true.

I look around at kids treating their moms like complete crap, and I think, man, you will regret that so much when she’s gone.

I see husbands and wives ignoring each other in favor of their phones all the time. Like, ALL THE DAMN TIME. What the heck is so important that you can’t bother to even look at the person you are with? You’d rather stare at a screen and fake-talk to other people somewhere else?

Sometimes I go for several days without talking to a single one of my friends. In the course of a few days, can I truly not spare a few minutes just to call or email one of them to let them know how much they mean to me? Of course I could. This is simply a personal failure.

I want all those moments back that I wasted.  But I can’t ever, ever get them. I can’t go back and tell my momma how she’s the absolute best and how I would never be anything without her. I can’t go back and make her laugh anymore, or buy her some peach-pink roses for no reason. I can’t surprise her with gyros for her birthday lunch or help her peel way too many potatoes to mash ever again.

The best I can do is to tell somebody. Tell somebody how much I loved her and how wonderful she was. That’s a start.

But even better than that, I can tell somebody how wonderful they are. Somebody who is still here—right here with me on this earth, right now—what I see in them and how they affect my life. I can tell somebody else the great things I see in them.

And I can hope that by telling folks how much they mean to me, it will inspire them to do the same. Because believe me, no one wants to be thinking of a loved one on what would have been their 80th birthday, wishing they’d spoken more into that person’s heart while they still had the chance.

Do you love someone? Do you see something wonderful in a person?

Tell them. Tell somebody. Tell everybody. Today.

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grief and shiny things

I have two confessions to make:

1) I cried in the middle of a store this week.

2) I have a weird love affair with seasonal tabletop decor.

You know, like tablecloths and dishes of every color. And fancy napkin rings (even though I despise cloth napkins). And all varieties of drinking glasses. And useless decorations that will sit on top of the table and take up space where the food should be sitting, getting in everyone’s way. Yeah, that stuff.

I love plates shaped like maple leaves in the fall. I love the red and gold and silver sparkly-trimmed business around Christmas time. I adore hydrangea blue-purple splashed on top of yellow fabric in the spring. I love cups with watermelon-shaped ice cubes in the summer. Just thinking about it….oh, glory!

When I was a little girl, I declared it my life’s mission (in addition to being a paleontologist, of course) to grow up and have a big tote full of decorations and dishes for every season and holiday of the year, which I would change and update whenever the time was right. Every time I walk past the seasonal displays–shiny, colorful, sparkly– I still dream a little dream. It’s a sickness, really. I’m sort of a junkie. In theory anyway.

This weekend I was in Kohl’s to pick up a few things (which was strange enough for me) I looked at the seasonal decor (duh!) and saw some of those pretty tablecloths. My heart skipped a beat because I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year and I really wanted a pretty table for dinner.

Then I spotted it. It was shiny and silky and heavily beaded… A beautiful Christmas-y table runner that immediately reminded me of the one that my momma bought me years ago, for absolutely no other reason than I fell in love with it. At the time, I was a single gal with a crappy apartment, no guests coming over for a dinner party, not even space to have one if I wanted to. We were out shopping together, so I know it had to have been a long time ago. I was swooning over this gorgeous, red silk beaded runner, and saying how I couldn’t wait to have a house to decorate for the holidays someday. Then I bounced along, down the aisle to look at the next shiny thing. She put it in the cart without me even noticing, and it has been mine ever since we finished that shopping trip.

My Mom’s love language was clearly gifts. I didn’t know that then, but looking back now I can see it. She had the habit of telling me to put things in the cart/bag if I even slightly mentioned in passing that I liked it. I had to talk her down quite a few times from buying me lovely but completely unnecessary things. She had lived a hard life growing up and basically had nothing. She had to quit school after 8th grade because her family couldn’t afford clothes and books for her to attend school. Besides, they needed her to work to help them keep food on the table. So to her, having things you want means that you’ve pulled yourself up by the bootstraps, and you’ve made a good life. Purposely denying yourself something nice when you have the money to pay for it just didn’t make sense in her world…which I suppose is the reason I drove her so crazy during the last few years of her life.

But standing there in Kohl’s this week, surrounded by seasonal, sparkly, unnecessary things, the tears welled up in an instant and flooded my eyes as I thought about my momma. It only took a second to go from wow-that’s-gorgeous to my-momma’s-really-gone?

And just like that, I was one of those weirdos who cries in public. Oh dear….

But I guess that’s what it’s like when grief sneaks up on you… When you’ve been too busy to give it its proper due, it just sneaks up from behind while you’re in the midst of all that busy-ness and takes what rightfully belongs to it: your attention.

It’s been nearly a year since I lost my mom. We’re about to have the first Thanksgiving without her, which was always her favorite holiday. I keep thinking to myself that I’ll be fine, that she would want us to have a happy day and not be sad about her being gone. I keep telling myself I’ll be fine. We’ll all be fine. But then again, I thought I’d be “fine” looking at fancy table decor too.

In all honesty, I’m only half looking forward to this holiday, but I’m trying hard to be thankful anyway. Thankful that I had a mother who was so giving, even if sometimes it was to her own detriment. Thankful that I have a home in which to host family, no matter how dysfunctional, for the holiday. Thankful that we’ll be sharing a meal, since there are some who won’t get such a luxury in their whole lifetime, let alone once a year.

I’ll have a few shiny things on the table this year, but certainly not a tote full, as I’ve long since lost interest in storing up that much of anything. But this year when I pass the potatoes across my shiny, patterned tablecloth, I’ll remember how my momma always brought a little sparkle into our lives. And for that, I will always be thankful.