I was out for a run and missed her call. She left a voicemail. The first one in twelve years. Happy Birthday, she said. I found the #courage to call her back on my way home. I was already physically lost, so why not? As I rounded the corner of an unknown block, I stumbled upon a tree with notes tied to it (from The Universe?).
My birthday was on the 5th. Hers was on the 13th. I called her to wish her a happy birthday and I was secretly relieved that she didn’t answer. I was in Palm Springs at the time and wrapping up a long work day. It made me sad to hear her voicemail message. “Tallulah, Malicent, Pork Chop, and I are off galavanting…” it started. Tallulah was my mother’s golden retriever and has been dead for almost four years. Nothing has changed. Everything has changed.
I don’t remember what my mother looks like anymore. Sometimes I close my eyes and try to remember, but I can’t see her face anywhere I try to place it. I don’t look anything like her, so when I look in the mirror, I am not nostalgic when I see her eyes staring back at me. I look so much like my father it’s like God forgot to sprinkles her DNA into my genes when he made me. I still think of her often, but I think of her the way you think of people when they go to heaven. Sometimes you forget what the smell like or how they sound. I’ve forgotten all cues about her, and I’m hungry for them.
I called her tonight. I said I would last week and I didn’t because I am a coward. Tonight, I mustered up the bits of courage I could find, the way a baby bird makes a meal out of crumbs of bread-it wasn’t enough or sustainable, but it had to do. I didn’t know what to expect. I never have with her; that’s something I crave. Something I have always craved. If you are in my life, I keep you around because you are stable and predictable and consistent in a way that makes me feel safe, makes me feel secure, makes me feel like I can count on you and that you will be there for me. It’s a big responsibility, I know, but I will give you whatever you need and whatever I can provide to make you happy in return. As I get older, I’ve learned not to give so much that I become exhausted and resentful, but it might happen, so be gentle with me when I mistakes and I will try to be gentle with you. For as much courage and strength you think I have, I am equally (if not more) fragile and scared.
We yelled. I cried. I got angry. I got scared. I got impatient. I did not get unkind. I did not lash out. I did not try to punish her. I have done all of those things in the past, so I am proud of myself for giving up part of my past and retiring the old weapons I thought served me so well that really only harmed me.
Sometimes I just feel like a moment is about to happen. I am almost impossible to surprise because I am constantly taking in my surroundings and reading between the lines. A sixth sense of sorts. I get out a pen and paper when I feel like something is going to happen that I’m going to want to write down; I take my camera out when I feel like I’m going to want to capture a moment on film. I’ve never had the urge to record audio until tonight.
Do you know what it’s like to have your mother tell you she loves you after not speaking for 12 years?
I do. And I grabbed the audio. I’m torn about sharing it, but it exists. And it’s hard to listen to, but it’s there. The moment captured, a snippet in time that’s now mine.