The power, and limitations, of memory-laden objects

At a Holiday Inn in Terre Haute, Indiana, where we'd come to bury my mom, this frog arrived in a crib delivered to our room.

At a Holiday Inn in Terre Haute, Indiana, where we’d come to bury my mom, this frog arrived in a crib that was delivered to our room.

January 9, 2014 marked the five year anniversary of my mom’s death.

And perhaps because we’re programmed to mark anniversaries that end in a 5 or a zero as more significant than others, I found myself honing in on objects and memories from the time of her death.

The squeezy plastic frog that has Holiday Inn stamped in script on its stomach, which arrived with a crib in our hotel room in Terre Haute. (My mom was buried in nearby Clay City, Indiana.) Lily, 8 months old at that time, loved the frog and often held it in her little hands, and I felt ridiculously grateful for this small gesture.

The snug, plain white ankle socks that I borrowed from my mother’s dresser drawer, in North Carolina, because I’d packed our bags in such a rushed, harried state that I’d packed no socks for myself in the coldest month of the year. These same socks are rolled up in my dresser drawer now. Pulling them onto my feet always makes me remember the trip. How we didn’t make it in time to see her alive on final time, despite our best efforts. How her life ended in the time when we were all hurtling through space toward her hospital room. How I knew, upon returning to the Asheville Airport’s car rental counters from the bathroom, that she was gone, simply by the expression on Joe’s face as he walked toward me. How, based on reports of my mother’s condition shortly before her death, I quickly decided that her timing may have been for the best. That the relatively casual, “How are you?” phone conversation I’d had with her days before would serve me well enough, since it ended with, “I love you.” Continue reading

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Virtual Time Capsule (or, Letter to my mom, 3 years gone)

Three years ago today, on January 9, you died. You’d dealt with (what began as) breast cancer on and off for 14 years, but when the end came, it worked its destruction on your organs so quickly that we couldn’t get to you before you were gone.

On this particular anniversary, I’ll confess that I feel a strange lightness – an appreciation for the life and family I now have. And I have no regrets. Because you started making a point of saying “I love you” at the end of visits and phone calls once you were diagnosed (thank you for that), I’m not haunted by what wasn’t said; and since we’d visited you and Dad only weeks before, at Thanksgiving and at Christmas – despite the logistic difficulties of traveling by plane with a 7 month old baby – I’m wholly at peace that we got to spend some reasonably “normal” time with you before everything spiraled out of control, and that you got to spend as much time with Lily as was possible before you died.

Lily, sporting her distinctive fashion style in the summer of 2011

That having been said, I know you’d absolutely love to see her now, at age 3 1/2. She’s a mischievous little ringleader, with that trademark, thick, multi-hued honey blond hair that seems to run in our family.

Yes, she can be stubborn, of course (she was bound to get that trait no matter what, with me and Joe as parents), and she’s demonstrated already that she may well possess Joe’s temper and capacity for volume.

But there are nonetheless these moments when I nearly burst with love for her. For instance, when we were returning home from visiting Dad at Christmas, she sang and ran and skipped down the airport’s multiple moving sidewalks, wearing a sparkly red tutu over her purple pants, with her long, ragged braid bouncing off her back. I was the one chasing her with our bags, while Joe stayed with the baby in the stroller, so I got to see the faces of all the people we passed light up with smiles as they watched this sprite of a girl – this little being that Joe and I somehow created. Continue reading