Monday, February 18, 2013

With my (sold out!) show on Friday and my mum's death anniversary on Sunday, this week's posts will all be mom related. During the week I'll be sharing some stories from others who have lost their mothers at various points in their lives. Out of all of the Life is Sweet posts, I think these have maybe been the hardest for me to read and process because they're all so close to home. 

I met Teresa in Kirkland Lake many moons ago through my ex-fiance. I don't know how it came up, but we realized how much we had in common and felt very connected very quickly. Over the years we've stayed in contact and checked in with one another on some important dates and exchanged pieces of writing. This is one of two pieces Teresa submitted for the Life is Sweet project and I couldn't be happier to have her involved. 

Today would’ve been my mothers 50th birthday.

Such a massive milestone in the middle aged life.  It’s an odd birthday: mortality is looming in the future, yet you are not as old as 60. Hopefully you are about to ease into the contentment of early retirement and lending your children money, gearing up for increased physicals at the doctors and sensible exercise programs. That 50th year is also the point of looking back before stepping forward, 50 is the year to look behind you at what most people will consider the best, most productive years of their lives: the lovers, the travel, the long hours at work, the children and accomplishments. She missed it by two decades though; my mother died from breast cancer in her 30thyear. I didn’t even remember it was her birthday until my aunt called me, and then felt terrible about forgetting. What kind of daughter forgets her mothers birthday, alive or not? I’m aware that the day would probably have more practical significance if she were alive, I imagine there would be a party, a well timed speech from me, flowers, champagne under twinkling lights and all the trappings of love that come along with celebrating your 50th year.  It’s funny the things you think about; one would think I would have important questions about how she would’ve been. I do, but it’s the seemingly trivial things my mind always wanders to. I wonder what she would look like, if she would have silver hair around her bangs like I already do in my twenties? Would she have aged gracefully and embraced her mid life or would she cling to her youth? I suppose it doesn’t matter: she is forever beautiful, trapped at 30.

My mother is an apparition; she’s not fully real to me sometimes, and so much of my identity is wrapped up in this enigma. Like a rainbow that you can see with your eyes but that you know full well will disappear if you chase it, my mother exists on a plane I can never access or fully understand.

I took a drive at 3am to our old house, the happiest house, the last place I saw her, the place she died. I didn’t expect to see her there, that’s not why I went. I went for the garden. The people who live there now thankfully don’t have a green thumb and have left my mothers flower garden relatively untouched, only replanting what she chose over 20 years ago. Yellow and red tulips, hot pink dragon snaps, marigold impatiens and fuchsia begonias; flowers that were like our living room wallpaper and everything seemed to be in the late eighties: really damn bright.  My mother was so young when she moved here; already at my age she was light years ahead of me. She was married, had a toddler and a new house in a strange city. She made it her own and lovingly planted flowers, gave thought to little details and made it a home for me. She was one of those women who just had a way with making something out of nothing. Twigs in bottles, arrangements of photos and candles: Little details that you see in home design magazines that I can never seem to make my haphazard apartment replicate. Whether it was about kindness, flowers or looks, it seemed that beauty was her specialty. My mother loved gardening in a way I’ve never cultivated, and my father kept her happy with bouquets of bright blooms all the time. Even after she died, he frequently brought home her favorite: red roses to keep on the table. To this day, the sight of those flowers for no one is one of the saddest things I've ever seen. She planned and executed that garden so wonderfully. There was a blackberry tree on the edge of it, and one of my earliest memories is being scolded for ruining my dinner after spending yet another afternoon sitting beneath it, eating myself sick with telltale purple stained fingers. Between that umbrella tree and her garden, this yard was the most magical place in the world to me. I know it was is not these exact stems she touched with her hands, but I needed to come here and see something else that grew from her. Something else she lovingly tended and had an impact on, something that survived. I kneeled in the soft dirt on the edge of the flowerbed, watched the flowers sway in the breeze and closed my eyes.

The seed I grew from planted these seeds, and somehow, we’re both still here. Through adversity, turmoil and lost houses, through new owners and illness, we were both still going strong. We still endured. My mother may not have made it to her 50th birthday, but these flowers and I are still growing. I hope wherever my mother is, that she knows I would’ve thrown her the best birthday party, one deserving of the woman she was and the one I know she would’ve become. I hope wherever she is that she is happy, and that she is proud of me. But most of all, I hope that it is beautiful, and that there are flowers.

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 ( is currently under construction, but until then you can find her on twitter @thebandiswithme 

1 comment:

All My Happy Endings said...

Wow, Ashley, this is beautifully written. I am in awe of your prose. And so familiar with this subject matter. Perhaps you've read my post, "motherless daughters,"

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