Brought to you by the number 8.
My mother died on April 22, 2001. The first year it stung all the time. The second year it stung on certain days and most major holidays. Mother's Day was a bitch. I remember standing in the kitchen while baking a cake and thinking how absurd it was that I was celebrating this holiday when my mom was dead. After that, it was certain smells, certain sounds and certain memories. I'm grateful that the passing of time makes great grief less great.
I didn't know that the first year. I wish someone had shown me the grief playbook.
Nine years later. Today. And the morning is not full of sobs but laughter with friends. And work and life and emails and texts and plans for the weekend and all the sorts of things a Thursday should have in it because it's, well, a Thursday and that's what Thursdays do.
And even though it's a Thursday and not a THURSDAY. And even though it's the 22nd and not THE 22ND, it still feels right to share some things I learned along the way from my mom.
1. No shortcuts.
As soon as my mom died, I had a really quick sweet dream. My mom was leaning against a tree and we reached out to say goodbye to each other. She started to walk down a long path inside a gate and I went to take, yup, a shortcut. She looked back and pointed in her direction. I knew then the road would be long but worth it. I knew taking the easy way wouldn't be any longer.
2. Give when no one is looking.
My mother was a master at this. She would put a young Latino kid through the fire academy rather than invest in a new car for herself. She clothed people without fanfare. She fed them and listened to them and prayed for them and loved them. And she gave when she was sure no one was looking.
3. Find your sea.
I go to museums because my mother took me to them. And she went to the sea because her father took her there. There are many reasons we find our "place" but whatever you do, find it. Go to it. Make it your place and make it a refuge.
4. Have Yes Days
We were little, my brother and I, and my mother took us on a Yes Day. It went horrible. We went camping at the beach and locked the keys in the trunk of the car and it was not our greatest adventure, but still, it was an adventure. And, the fact that it stands out to this day, there's something very YES about that.
5. Have a carnival in your backyard.
Rio Lempa Drive in Hacienda Heights was THE place to live. My mother was a teacher and a really creative one and threw a bad ass carnival which probably speaks to me being an event director now. So, this carnival had booths and games and I wish I was older and could remember more of it. I do know that my best friend Audra Dial wore a dress and I had on jeans and wanted to go inside and change but was so glad I didn't since I ended up sliding down the dirt hill at the end of the day.
Remember, I like being with the boys.
The point is. You can do things small or you can have a carnival in your backyard. Live really big like that, you know?
6. Something physical. Something artistic. Something educational. Something cultural.
That was the rule. And I'm not sure she spelled it out as clearly as that all the time but that was the deal. We had to play an instrument and if we didn't do that then we had to participate in a performing art of some sort. And the grades had to kick ass. And then there had to be a sport. And she brought in the cultural piece on the side with trips and music and such. I am balanced in my want of these things today because of my mom.
God. She was pretty cool, huh?
7. Write. Draw. Sing. Act.
Dance, Little Girl. And sing, Darling Girl. And Direct, Sweet Boy. If these are your dreams then...do them! My mother was a writer, a very quiet one. And maybe she never wanted to do anything big with her words but still, she wrote anyway. A piece for you, well, for us but for you.
November 1984 (written in my Spanish class, recalling the morning)
Mis Ninos -
You are my celebration,
In the early hours
Of my morning
I see you sleeping -
And I hear a song.
For every day is a gift
And I will
Sound a quiet bell
Light a single candle
And thank my Lord
That you are safe
And you are here.
Much love to you this April 22, this very sweet April 22,
My mom's daughter