Tonight is The Life is Sweet Project; it feels surreal. There are still tickets available and would love to have a full house come 8pm. Teresa wrote two incredible pieces for Life is Sweet last year and I'm so glad she's back.
I should have went and got groceries yesterday. I should've rallied myself after the 14 hour journey to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, which was comprised of a 2 hour drive to the airport in Buffalo, 8 hours of planes and a 4 hour drive back down winding roads. I should've turned down the dinner invitation from my friend Kyle, should not have spent the precious 2 hours left in my reserve of energy eating Mexican with him and his friends, locals who are all mechanics and hydro workers, men who have permanent grease under their fingernails and refer to me only as 'Canada'.
Because if I had went and got groceries yesterday I would not have spent today being exposed to the never-ending siege that occurs on Mothers Day. The day when it seems the entire world celebrates what I don’t have, the only thing in the world I can’t find or meet or buy myself. At lunch, the waitress tries to talk me into the special, a chicken cordon blue sandwich 'inspired by mom'. If I had went to get sustenance the day before as planned, I would have been able to just hide in my oceanfront cabin, the one I rented expressly for the purpose of hiding out from the world for a few days to write and be alone in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.
But I didn't, so it was off to the supermarket to stock my little kitchenette. Forks is home to 3500 people, and the grocery store is comprised of a traditional grocery and hardware/outdoor outfitters shop, to save time in the event you want a garden hose, some overalls and a pint of milk. Today, it is my personal hell. Even fertilizer is on sale to honor Mom. Everyone in here has flowers in their cart, pink and lavender cards tucked in between plump hams to make dinner for their giver of life. Me? I've got mangoes and vegetable crackers. The stuff best eaten alone, over a sink.
Women in here walk proudly down the aisle, everywhere they go today they are reminded of their achievements in procreation. They all recognize each other and say 'Happy Mothers Day' over the displays of teddy bears and balloons. These Women purposefully pick out their groceries; they scrutinize melons and load up family size boxes of foodstuffs according to their children's age and preferences. I follow one woman around the store who has an overflowing cart of child-sized snacks and a ring with different colored birthstones; this is obviously someone’s mother. She walks with a sort of serenity that I don't know if I will ever have. It looks like she knows her purpose, even if it's just to buy snacks and braid hair and kiss scraped knees.
I hit the check out after wandering aimlessly for an hour, and decide at the last minute to buy a 59 cent red carnation. It looks so lonely and hopeful and I decide I will bring it to the ocean. I would have preferred a red rose, her favorite, but I can't really be that choosy an hour before closing on the most popular day of the year to buy flowers. The teen clerk loads up a big paper bag of my purchases and hands me the flower, carefully, like she is about to ask me to the dance. I take it and walk out of the store, proud of my decision to do something symbolic outside of my usual yearly tradition of bring angry and hiding in my apartment.
Just outside the store there is a huge native man. He wears a grey tracksuit, and has a shiny, jet-black braid that hangs to the middle of his back. His chest is expansive, kind of like bitch tits Bob from ‘Fight club’. Tribal tattoos dot his upper forearm and his skin is the color of burnt butterscotch. He doesn't intimidate me like some of the other men out at the reserve where I am staying, his huge size seems protective as opposed to scary. He spots my hopeful flower and me and calls out 'Happy Mothers Day, especially if you're a Mother!!!!' and shoots me a wide, toothy grin. I almost lose it right there. I want to shout at him 'ACTUALLY, I DONT HAVE A MOTHER SO DON’T ASSUME THINGS!’ I want to dissolve into his huge caramel arms, collapse into his bosom and have him stroke my hair and tell me I will be okay. I just know he would comfort me and have some sort of wisdom on how to heal a 20 year old broken heart and I'm certain he would smell like leather and pipe tobacco.
But I just smile at him and walk to my car, will myself to drive back to the ocean and be miserable in peace without fantasizing about paternal-type comfort from big Indians. When I get back I put on my rain gear and grab my flower and head down the short path to the ocean. I watch the swell and waves for a while, take a picture of the carnation resting on the sand, and think of my mother. Finally, I walk a little toward the tide and throw the flower as hard as I can. But the head of the flower is so much heavier than the stem, and since I am holding the end of it when the wind comes in, a part of the bottom breaks off. I pick it up and try again and it finally hits the water and disappears below the angry white water. I watch its red petals bob up and down a few times and then come swishing back out, landing about 10 feet from mine. I retrieve it and try again, but it comes back again. I keep trying and trying, getting madder each time. DO YOU NOT WANT MY FLOWER MOTHER?! I want to yell. I MISS YOU SO MUCH AND I’M SO SORRY THAT ALL YOURE GETTING FOR MOTHERS DAY IS A 59 CENT CARNATION THAT IS BECOMING MORE RAGGED WITH EVERY ATTEMPT. I AM AWARE THIS IS NOT A FLOWER THAT IS BECOMING OF WHO YOU ARE OR IN LINE WITH WHAT YOU DESERVE.
Finally, I give up. There are hot, angry tears are streaming down my face and the cold rain and wind are turning my cheeks to stinging red. I leave the flower sitting where it came back the last time at the edge of the surf between two shiny rocks dyed bone china white from the constant salt. I stalk off, angry at myself for trying, angry at my mother, angry at the rain, the ocean, and the world.
I get to a piece of driftwood and sit down and try to not freak out and collect my thoughts, my back to the traitor body of water that won't accept my offering. I end up thinking of Stephanie Ratza. When I was a kid, after my mom died, a couple of her friends would take turns taking me on outings. They were well meaning, but I always took them as pitying. However, they usually ended up being afternoons of them buying me things, so I tolerated them. Once, her friend Stephanie Ratza asked me 'Do you miss your mom?' and I quickly and defiantly answered 'No!' for I was already full into my 'I am so tough that I do not need a mother' phase. Already at 8 I was not okay with vulnerability, I had a father that was falling apart, I had to be a stoic rock.
As I sat on that driftwood I thought of Stephanie Ratza and how I am still afraid to miss my mother sometimes. I mean, as much as I've practiced it over the years, its not entirely true that you can't celebrate Mother's Day if you're mother is not here. I mean, I DO have a mother. I got here, didn’t I? She is no longer here in front of me and I can’t ask her for advice on clothes or love or how to iron linen safely, but that doesn't really mean that she doesn't exist. Maybe that's all people really want when they miss someone who has died. They just want them acknowledged; they don't want people to forget someone so integral to their being existed. Just because my mother can't meet my new boyfriend or like my new haircut doesn't make the fact that she was here any less real.
I have a mother. Her name was Palma. She liked red roses and Bruce Springsteen and long nails and short hair. She was kind to everyone and she is still the most beautiful person I have ever seen up close. She smelled like vanilla mist, had the faintest accent when she pronounced her 'B's and was so wonderful that 20 years later I am only now beginning to understand what it means to lose her. If I saw that Stephanie Ratza tomorrow and she asked me again if I missed my mother, I would say without hesitation, 'Everyday'.
When I finally got up and looked back, the carnation was gone.
Teresa is a writer, traveler, nutritionist, tour manager and hula hoop champion. She likes bukowski, the ocean, holding hands, Roswell reruns, and long, romantic walks down the organic produce aisle. Her blog (www.dancesinthedark.com) is currently under construction, but until then you can find her on twitter @thebandiswithme