Your apartment is Magazine Cute, she said. I didn’t know what that meant until talking about how Neat and Tidy and Type A my apartment is with Him. My apartment isn’t that clean, I flippantly replied. I was defensive for no reason. Do we ever really have good reasons for being defensive? I can’t think of a time it has served me.
I came home and realized it IS magazine cute and it IS that neat. And I thought about all the times my mother said Clean Your Room! when I was a kid. Instead of cleaning, I made my room extra messy as an act of defiance. Now as an adult, with no one threatening to take away the tv or going to the movies with my friends, I adore coming home to find order, peace, and tranquility. Something about the order outside helping the order inside, but I will always, always, always leave something out of place- in the off chance that my Mother finds herself in my presence for the first time in over three years- so that we have something to break the silence when you tell me to clean my room.
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. If you are in my life, I let you in 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.
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. I did the best I could, because The Universe is no longer in the business of being subtle.