My mother passed away on October 1st of last year. She was 48 years old and had been battling breast cancer since 2004. I was about 5 months pregnant with Picklebug when she suddenly got really sick. Within days she was gone. Just like that.
Needless to say dealing with this was really hard on me. I had so many questions. I was angry. I was depressed. But above all I was afraid. Afraid that I might not be able to remember her.
I've always been a journal-your-thoughts kind of person, but most of my journal entries were about boys. I never wrote much about my mom or my relationship with her. So when she died I suddenly panicked and started to dig around in shoeboxes and closets looking for anything I could find to help me hold on to her. Pictures, birthday cards, presents. I even went through my voicemail and made sure to save any messages she had left.
But all this searching made me realize that I don't have that many physical reminders of my mother. Only a few cards and notes and one book in which she wrote down some stuff in the back. This made me really sad and frustrated. How was I ever going to remember all the wonderful moments? All of our adventures? Even all of our arguments and awkward coming-of-age talks?
Then, a few weeks ago, I climbed in the shower and noticed that Mike had taken some of my hair and made a little heart on the shower wall. (Now that my body has purged all those wonderful pregnancy hormones I am losing more hair than a cat in summertime). Gross? Maybe a little. But seeing that hair on the wall made me suddenly remember being a teenager living at home and how I used to take the hair that got trapped between my fingers when I was shampooing and stick it to the shower wall. This drove my mother CRAZY. She used to call out from the shower "Jennifer Lynn - you better stop leaving all this damn hair in the shower!"
Okay - so not a super happy memory. But it made me smile to think of it. And with that memory came a whole flood of emotion. How my mom could get so mad about little things like hair in the shower, or empty ice cube trays in the freezer, or dirty laundry on the floor next to the hamper. These memories make it feel like she isn't so far away. They take me back to a time when my whole family lived under one roof. When a trip to Wal-Mart was equivalent to saying "I love you".
In This I Believe II, Christine Cleary describes this same idea in her essay entitled "The Deeper Well of Memory". She writes:
"I believe there is a difference between memory and remembering. Remembering has to do with turning the oven off before leaving the house, but memory is nurtured by emotion. It springs from a deeper well... safe from the passage of time."
Seeing the hair in my shower makes me think Cleary's got it right. Memories aren't something you can always keep in an album or a shoebox under your bed. Memories " ...have a will of their own. You can't control them any more than you can control the weather. When it springs up, a person loved and lost is found, if only for a few seconds."
And I know that there are many other precious memories of my mother out there just waiting for me in the most ordinary places.