Sunday, August 24, 2014

Messages from my mom.

The second anniversary of Mom’s passing arrived Friday amid the craziness that is back-to-school time. It was Katie’s last day of August band and Ryan’s second day of college, and I was still scrambling to get ready for my new EOC prep class that starts Monday. I thought it a blessing to be so busy on that day, the one that marks the birth of our grief. Running from school to the band dinner, I thought I wouldn’t have time to be exceptionally sad.

Throughout the day, though, the sadness managed to sneak in. A couple of times at work, I had to write “Aug. 22” on a form, and there it was. Or maybe it was a fleeting thought of how I missed these particular inservice days two years ago. Memories of hospice and phone calls and funeral arrangements surfaced, so I would just dive right back into my work.

But two times during the day, Mom showed up at my desk.

The first incident came while I was sorting spirals for my new students. I bought a bunch on sale at Walmart over the last few weeks, but when my classes were larger than I anticipated, I scrambled to cover the gap. In an old filing cabinet I found the last of my mom’s old stash of notebooks. When she retired from teaching kindergarten, we inherited her stockpile, spirals she had purchased for her students way back when. I thought we’d gone through them all, but there they were with her handwritten name labels on them.

What a comfort to see that neat manuscript! I paused, took a pic (naturally), and set those two spirals aside. It was so precious to get this reminder of her teaching career, her legacy, in the midst of my gotta-be-ready-for-Monday frenzy.

The second “Mom moment” happened a little later as I was rearranging a bookcase. When I taught creative writing, I would always write with my students. There with some old notebooks were the journals I had used in those CW classes. Many of the journal entries were quick rough draft responses to prompts the students presented. As I flipped through these little time capsules, one of the first entries to catch my eye was this one from April 24, 2002:

Best compliment you ever got
“You are such a good mother.” My mom said this to me a few weeks ago. We had taken Katie to Burger King for supper. Brett and Ryan were at yet another Chuck E. Cheese birthday party, so we were trying to give Katie her own special time. I was really tired that day. I felt like I was too harried to be a good anything. It was one of those “let’s just get by” kind of days. I didn’t feel particularly motherly: I hadn’t done any of the well-planned activities that would foster learning or social interaction. But Katie was happy, and my mom gave me credit for it.

Not my best prose, but can you believe I “just happened” to run across that on August 22nd of all days? In the few moments it took to read that paragraph, I just melted. I could hear her voice and see that approving smile. She was always good at affirmations, but I did not expect her to affirm me from beyond the grave!

Mom was never one to wallow (“There’s within my heart a melody,” you know?), so of course she would want joy to overrule my sadness that day. With the spirals and the journal entry, she turned my focus to gratitude. I still cried. Oh, it was a big ol’ ugly cry. But yet again, my overriding thought was how grateful I am that she was my mother.

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