I finally got around to cleaning out the scarred green trunk of memorabilia we moved from my Mom’s house in Calgary after she died. Although she passed away on July 4th, 1998, the grief is still raw. Until recently, touching things that were hers was actually painful – my head would get fuzzy and my eyes would fill with tears – so I just didn’t.
It was time, though, so I loaded a historical romance onto my iPod, turned on my Bluetooth speakers and drowned out the sorrow with stories of lords and ladies from another time (my, but they were a horny bunch) where there is always a happy ending (in both senses of the phrase).
In a wrinkled brown envelope, I found photos I didn’t know existed, dating back to 1924, of my mother, her brother and two sisters who grew to adulthood and the three children who died young.
After graduating from high school, my mother was ‘In Service’, taking care of a little blond boy named John Richard Smith. No one in my family remembered that. I wonder what happened to him? The name is too common to find on Google. ‘In service’ – how quaint. She wore a maid’s cap and uniform. Twenty years later, after my dad decamped leaving her with four children, she’d returned to school and earned the cap and white uniform of a nurse. What I do recall is mom talking about working in a bakery for $.25 an hour. But those were the kinds of jobs available to a young black girl in those days.
When I compare photos of myself when I was her age – we are almost identical. The one from 1935, when she was fifteen – four years before her mother and father would die, leaving her to care for her siblings, makes me weep at her clear-eyed innocence. On September 13th, she would have been 95 years old. In my heart, I know she would have hated being old – after all of the anguish and hardships she overcame and considering how much she accomplished in her life, she would never have wanted to be ancient, infirm or dependent on anyone.
‘They’ say grief never goes away, it just changes shape, and I believe it. Miss you, Mom.
Songwriters: Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Published by: SONY/ATV TUNES LLC