Someone To Watch Over Me

I've written this blog at least a thousand times. On scraps of paper, napkins, and notebooks. I write it in my head as I run, thinking of all the ways to start it, to navigate the middle of it, and how it should end. In some versions it is perfect. It captures every shadow, every sliver of light. In other versions it sits like the burnt rice at the bottom of a pot that no amount of soaking in the sink can remove. But no matter what words I put on the paper, no matter what I say, there is no correct tone, no perfect word, no part that will ever expertly smooth out the jagged edges or sand over the cracks.

And here is why.

Today, August 20th, is my mother's birthday.

My mother at nineteen.
How I miss that 'Mona Lisa' smile. 
She would have woken up and heard my voice on her phone singing happy birthday and found a card waiting for her in the mailbox. She would have made her way to her neighborhood coffee shop, sat down and held court, having the staff bring her a breakfast bagel sandwich and she would have spent the morning playing gin rummy or reading another Dan Brown book. She would have gone home, had a siesta, then she would have sat in her sun room with her beloved dog, and she would have called me. Because her memory was so poor, our conversation would have been the same conversation we had every time we talked. We would close the conversation by saying our "I love yous" over one another, laughing. She would have dinner with her best friend, then watch Casablanca for the hundredth time, and maybe fallen into a light sleep with the television on.

By no means a day any different than any other day, but still a day.

And since my mother died in March, there hasn't been a day where I haven't longed to hear her voice, to hold her hand, or to sit with her.

One of my favorite of her: confident, healthy, happy.
Ours was, like so many mother-daughter relationships, one where we each wanted to be the lead in the dance, but at times we couldn't follow because the music we heard wasn't the same. She raised me to be strong and independent, yet bristled and balked when being strong and independent meant challenging and questioning her authority. She found it especially difficult to be reliant on me, her child, for anything, especially emotional support. Part of that stemmed from her own insecurities from a childhood with a strong-willed mother who raised her to be...strong and independent. Sadly their inability to express love to one another impacted how my mother often felt unable to express love to me. I have never doubted my mother loved me, it just was the way that she expressed that love that created many a year of insecurity and self-doubt. Was she proud of me? Yes, proof of which can still be found in her home-a wall and shelf of photos of me interacting with the President, articles in which I was featured, cards I had sent. But did she speak kindly to me? Quite often the opposite, criticizing what I wore to the White House or how I had cut my hair. In fact I have no doubt that if she had lived to hear about my trip this summer to Africa and to see photos of me standing on the summit, her first comment would have been not about how proud she was of me, or how exciting it must have been, but, instead, "Is THAT the hat you wore? Couldn't you have found one that made you look less like a boy?"


I wish she were here to say that to me.

I have said this before. I am now a motherless daughter, yet in so many ways because I am my mother's daughter, I am never without her. She is an echo in my heartbeat; a catch in my voice when I say a certain phrase; in the way I hold my hands or gesture when I talk; in my brashness and boldness; in my sarcastic quips and cynicism; in my ability to eat books for breakfast and belch quotes out at the most inopportune times; in how I am insecure and unable to take a compliment, and I am always suspect when one is given. She is found in every sunrise I see, whether at Stella Point on Mt. Kilimanjaro, or the one I see when I run. She is in the mirror's reflection when I wear a piece of her jewelry.

And I find, yet again, this is woefully inadequate and incomplete. That all the words I wanted to say have slipped away. That to you I have not described the woman who when I was a teenager dyed her hair orange, and when she was 65 got a tattoo, who wore from wrist to elbow large turquoise and silver jewelry pieces, believed that aliens built Machu Pichu, knew every piece of dialogue to Casablanca, who loved to mix tang with her Lipton ice tea (and spike it with white wine upon occasion-don't ask), who adored Frieda Kahlo and Georgia O'Keeffe, who ran red lights in her mini-cooper, loved shopping at TJ Maxx, and styled every room in her house as if it were going to be featured on HGTV.

My mother. My friend.

Frances Elizabeth "Beth" Garland Ledden.

Brilliant. Beautiful. Blustery. Bossy. Bold.

My words are inadequate. My thoughts incomplete. There is so much more to say, yet what more can be said? And I know that after I post this, I will think of another thousand things to say, another thousand memories will wash over me, and another, and another, and another. And none of it will ever be enough, or right, or perfect, or measure up in any way to any thought in my head. I will continue to bumble and stumble. To not ever have the right haircut. To not ever be able to explain why I run. To not ever say I love you loud enough.

And maybe all I now know is only this:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

ee cummings

1 comment:

  1. Myrdin, This is a beautifully written and heartfelt piece, which should resonate with many. May you always find comfort in living and loving memories of your mom, and may her memory always be a blessing for you. This is definitely in the spirit of our book, The Living Memories Project: Legacies That Last, which describes how people keep alive the memories, values, and passions of their loved ones. I hope that you found it comforting and constructive as you observe the anniversary of your mother's birth. Please share your story on The Living Memories Project Facebook page or website: http://thelivingmemoriesproject.com/ Hugs