By Becky Andrews
I sat in the passenger seat and made small talk with Sylvia. It was the morning after a sleepover at my friend Paula’s house. At 15 years-old that meant Paula’s mom Sylvia, had to take me home. First, we had to make a detour. Sylvia made a right turn into the closest entrance of the local cemetery. After parking, she opened her handbag and grabbed a greeting card, a piece of pink saran wrap and a plastic fork.
While she fussed with the greeting card and saran wrap, the small talk drifted, and the car became very quiet. I didn’t have a cell phone or iPad to keep my eyes and mind distracted. Nope. It was just me, Sylvia, and the rustling sound of plastic wrap.
It felt like we had been sitting in silence for at least 30 minutes, but my blue faced Swatch indicated it had only been two. Before I could let out a teenage, “why can’t we leave already, I’m so inconvenienced” sigh, Sylvia piped up and said, “This is the hardest day for me.”
She wasn’t saying it to me as much as she was giving herself a pep talk or maybe a short affirmation to let her mind know, “hey, it’s me. This is supposed to feel rotten. You just go through it, girl. We’ll get through this like we always do. Until then, don’t be too hard on yourself.”
When she finished wrapping the card in saran wrap, Sylvia exited the car and walked to a nearby tombstone. She knelt then secured the plastic wrapped greeting card with the plastic fork at the foot of a grey-flecked stone.
She stood there for no more than a minute. When the cloudy sky started spitting out a slow drizzle, she walked back to the car. After plugging in her seat belt, Sylvia turned to look at me. “It’s hard losing your mom, kid. It’s hard losing your mom.” Paying no mind to the clouds, she put on her sunglasses, and we drove away.
I didn’t know what to say or IF I should say something. I just looked at my friend’s mom and studied her tear stained cheeks.
She didn’t know how to celebrate the day made exclusively for the person who brought her into this world. She was feeling Mother’s Day like she had never felt it before. It didn’t matter that she was a grown woman and a mom herself. It mattered that her person-her mom-wasn’t here. She wasn’t just “Paula’s mom” that morning. She was a daughter.
The small talk picked up shortly after pulling away from the cemetery. Fifteen minutes later, we pulled into my driveway. I said thank you and jumped out. Before reaching the front door, Sylvia shouted, “See ya later, Kiddo!” Just like she always did.
I knew then that I wouldn’t forget this otherwise unmemorable trip home from a sleepover. And I never have.
In August of 2004, nearly 15 years after that morning car ride with Sylvia, I became a card-carrying member of the Motherless Child Club. Since then, the heaviness inside me cracks open every year around this time. I also think about that car ride. I think about how at 15 years-old, I witnessed a daughter delicately navigating her way through the grief of losing her mom. I think about how that short drive home on a dreary Saturday taught me that it’s ok to cry. It’s ok to not understand the timing of grief or know how to deal with the waves. It’s even ok to give side-eye to all the mother/daughter duos eating at the table next to you on Mother’s Day. Just deal and don’t hide from it. Because hiding from uncomfortable feelings is as productive and enjoyable as taking a one-year-old to a Mother’s Day Brunch.
So, no matter what your day looks like this year, enjoy it on your terms (even if it includes giving side-eye to anyone). Your mom would want it that way.
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