It’s been 270 days since we last occupied the same physical space.
I miss your (loud and obnoxious) laugh, your casual squeeze of my shoulder as you walk past, your half-smile.
Last week, I was in Paris, the City of Love, and when I wasn’t chasing around the 24 lovely maniacs I was there to chaperone, I was thinking of you, the person from whom I first learned love. Thinking of how I inherited a legacy from you. A legacy of longing, a desire to see and experience and cherish the world, to let in more wonder and let out more peace.
I’ve never had a strong pull towards Paris, only a residual yearning, leftovers from your love of the city. It makes sense, then, that I thought of you on the top floor of the Eiffel Tower, and when I drank my coffee with a croissant each morning, and as I strolled in the light rain past bistros and flower shops.
In the midst of this city and my nostalgia, I couldn’t help but get lost — and found — in my memories. I learned how to love from you, from all of the big and little moments that are etched into the map of my life.
Like the time we returned home with Coach Dad from Little League practice in grade 2, and you were waiting with hot chocolate and warm towels, ready to wrap around us after baths thawed us out.
And the way you loved your mother, bountifully and beautifully. When she was deteriorating and you gave her pedicures and plucked her eyebrows and visited her nearly every day for 4 years; when she was young and vibrant and you belted out her old favorites with her; when she was coarse and giving you unsolicited advice and you listened to her patiently as only a daughter can.
The day, with God-awful teenage hormones raging through my bloodstream and cutting off the circulation to my brain (and clearly my heart), that I called you a bitch. I can’t remember why I said that, but I do remember your pained look, and your closed eyes, and then your open arms. And you simply hugged me and cried with me.
All of the hours you spent trying to teach me how to clean, or craft, or cook, especially cook, and only sort of caring that I preferred to sit and watch you work your magic with a meal instead.
Your (loud and obnoxious) laugh on the other end of the phone when I called you during the summer after grade 4. My job that day was to load the dish washer and, since I only sort of paid attention when you taught me the correct ways to clean or craft or cook, I added plain old dish soap instead of dishwasher soap. The entire kitchen was filled with suds, and even weeks later, when a rogue bubble would appear from tile cracks as we walked across the floor, you simply laughed.
The morning I left for Cairo. You cried, with your eyes squeezing partially shut and the corners of your mouth turning down and your lips opening slightly. We have the same crying-face, you know. And through the tears, you said you were so damn proud of me.
You weren’t perfect. You made mistakes along the way. I recall loud words, though I couldn’t tell you what I had done to (deservedly) receive them. I recollect impatience and frustration and exhaustion. And then I remember you apologizing for those moments, teaching me that love is about making mistakes and then making choices to forgive.
In the last almost-year, I have experienced moments of peace and of anguish, both of which I have called on you to share with me. And soon, I will be home, orbiting around you, eating, hugging, talking, sitting, laughing. (I inherited that loud and obnoxious laugh. And when I laugh it, it is with abandon. Just like you.)
These are the moments that have shaped me, that define my past and solidify my present.
My entire life you have said that I do not belong to you. That God trusted you to raise me and love me and guide me along until it was time for me to find my place in the universe. Well, I found it. And it starts with you.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy.