This Sunday I will experience my first ever Mother’s Day without my mama. I am not sad. Perhaps a bit wistful but I recognize daily how fortunate I am. And was. My mother lived to 93. I got more than most. And when she departed she was ready to fly.
What more could you ask for?
Now just because I’m not despairing doesn’t mean her absence doesn’t catch me up on occasion. Like this past Easter when we were hosting the family dinner and I ventured into the garage to grab something, noticed my beloved’s car and thought “He’ll have to move that before the family arrives so that my mother can use the steps …”
And then I stopped. And shook my head. And fought back a tear. You see, we had installed a special hand rail to help her up the two steps from the garage into the house. And she would no longer be needing it.
You know how I just said I wasn’t sad? I’m going to have to take that back for a moment.
Yes, my new reality is it will be a Motherless Mother’s Day this Sunday. But then again, perhaps not? Because as it turns out … I am also a mother. And I will be ecstatic to celebrate that status this weekend. It wasn’t exactly easily won. I had three miscarriages before Sam finally stuck. And for that I am actually, weirdly, grateful. Because Sam is the one I was waiting for. He is the one who made motherhood (not my most natural calling, truth be told) make sense to me. He is the child I was meant to raise.
Allow me to sidestep for a moment (Who me? Never done that before.). Sam is a singer/songwriter whose debut label EP will drop sometime (please God!) this year. This morning I was privileged to hear the final mixes of the 7 songs. I have been privy to this process all along so I know these tunes inside and out but to finally hear the end result – what you will hear when you download or stream the EP – was thrilling beyond belief. And then to remember that most of these brilliant lyrics (and trust me, he is a brilliant lyricist) are his – I was overcome with gratitude. To my mother. Because that which she instilled in me, I somehow managed to pass along to my son.
English was my father’s third language, and even though he didn’t begin to learn it until his third decade he became an accomplished author, journal founder, editor and academic. But English was my mother’s first language. And her love of its every nuance, structure, cadence and idiom shaped her very existence. Words were her thing! She wrote essays and poems until her dying day. Literally – she wrote her own homily. She translated novels and stories from their original German, always fastidiously maintaining the colour and tone of the original. She read voraciously, she scribbled incessantly and … she even wrote her memoirs just so that my sister and I could have a true and beautiful sense of her early life … and ours.
And she passed all of this along to me. She was always willing to read anything I wrote. I was recently bequeathed a hardcover journal which I gave her when I was maybe 25? Chock-full of handwritten poems, musings and lyrics that I had composed over the previous ten years. She had kept this and treasured it until her death. I used to write a newspaper column for the Hamilton Spec and not only did she keep every single one, she put them in a scrapbook. She kept every single letter I wrote when I was on the road with my bands and she read both novels I have written and every single blog. You share way too much, Vickie” she would admonish. “But you are a very good writer.” There was no one whose praise I valued more. I was so honoured (and now grateful) that she kept everything.
Much like I have kept every demo of every song and every version of every demo of every song even if this means that my computer in now full to needing an external hard drive of everything that Sam has ever written ever in the history of ever. I mean it. EVERYTHING. Somebody better do a documentary about that kid one day because I’ve got it all here just waiting.
Because that’s what we “word” mothers do. We catalog and keep and cherish and love every beautiful morsel our child constructs. Partly just so we have it. Mostly because we are in awe that the wailing, barfy, poopy-diapered banshee who refused to let us sleep for the fist 14 years (is that just me?) of his life has somehow blossomed into a soulful, sensitive, expressive wordsmith. A true poet. A scribe for the ages. That’s my boy.
So this Sunday I will celebrate my mother with a toast to the heavens. And I will celebrate my own motherhood with heartfelt gratitude to those same heavens … the ones that knew what they were doing and gifted me with Sam. The ones that guided me along the path to guiding him and hopefully nurturing his special gift to this upcoming fruition.
My mother’s was Sam’s biggest fan (if you remove me from the equation). She truly loved to read his words and hear him sing them. And so a few weeks before her death, on one of the last days she got out of bed for any length of time, he and I visited her and he sang for her. The song he had written for her.
It’s called “Mother Of My Mother”.
The torch has been passed. And will still blaze brightly this Sunday.