Last year at this time, I was lucky enough to still have my mother. A generous woman who remembered every birthday, every anniversary, with cards and gifts.
I also had a lot of stuff. Too much stuff. It occurred to me that I didn’t need any more stuff. What I needed was more time with my mother. At 88, who knew how much more time we would have together.
So I decided that instead of birthday presents of more stuff, what I wanted most from my mother was more memories. Her memories. I already had my memories but wanted to hear her version. And so I asked that in the future, could she send me gifts of memories. In each birthday, anniversary and Christmas card, could she substitute her traditional gift cards to restaurants and department stores with her memories. Hand written, cherished memories. And while she did still sneak in a gift card now and then, she started sending me her memories.
I found one of those cards today. Out of the blue. While rummaging through my desk for something I have already forgotten, I found a card that she had sent last year for my birthday. Her familiar handwriting leapt off the page and startled me. And then soothed me. The same handwriting that had signed my report cards eons ago. The same handwriting that had comforted and encouraged me in letters sent when I had been feeling lost and far from home. The same handwriting that had begun jotting notes of nearly everything as she lost confidence in her memory to keep track of even the mundane.
The world around me fell silent as I pulled up a chair to sit and savor her words in that familiar handwriting. She talked about how proud she was of me as I stood in my favorite blue dress on the bleachers in my school auditorium, singing my heart out in my second grade school play. She said she was still so proud of me. Proud of the mother I had become and the daughters I had raised. She wrote about how much she had enjoyed a recent phone call from my daughter, sharing thoughts on how far apart to space a second baby. Her favorite memory of me, her second child, was how easily I had napped. As the mother of two, I get it.
The card was dated October 4, 2015. Less than two months later, she was gone. Forever. No new memories to create or old memories to share. But I still have her card, in that familiar handwriting I know so well. Emails get deleted. Phone calls forgotten. But I have her handwritten note and will keep it and reread it whenever I need to spend some time with her.
The time it takes to write a card or note is never wasted. It brings joy when first received and only grows more valuable with time. Stuff wears out. Gets broken. Lost. Heirlooms don’t need to be made of silver or gold, china or crystal. Written memories are more precious than all the stuff we have stacked away in closets and attics.
Thank you, Mom, for taking the time to write and share your thoughts and memories. It was wonderful to hear from you today.
Miss you heaps.