Pretend Tomorrow Is from Me

 

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These past days (weeks, months?) I’ve been so caught up in a job and driving places and sharing in wonderful and major life events.  It’s been like a giant train speeding ahead and all I can do is look forward.

 

And there my mother’s ashes sit of the shelf.  Static. Cold. Still permanent.

 

This morning I woke up to the rain dropping through the leaves in my back yard.  I think of my mother. I think of the new house I just bought.  I talk about the first joint checking account I will open with someone.  I talk about all the weddings I’ve been to and that they were just the right kind of love.  I talk about you, and how I wish we could talk.

 

Last summer I got to write and grieve and write and grieve.   It was a fevered sort of peace that let me process and had me desperate to hold onto you.

Then I took a job, and it has turned out to be heavy, and distracting, and full of its own consuming challenges.  I can’t stop because the job won’t let me, because I love these little kids, because public education in the city of Philadelphia is a joke compared to what it should be and it tears my heart everyday that I can’t make it better.

 

You, there on the shelf, are you still a part of this struggle with me?

 

She comes back to me in waves while I’m moving through stress and joy and moments.

You still guide me when I feel like a failure and I need someone to tell me that they love me, that I can do anything, that there’s no reason to question myself because of course you know I can.

 

You are still there in pockets of my every day.

But I want to write you in permanently.  I want to welcome you back through the words of your story.  I want to remember you always:  not just in the tattoo I want to get or a picture that shows your smile.

 

Sometime in 2014 you sent me a card that says on the front:  “Every day is a gift” and in the middle:  “Pretend tomorrow is from me.”  You crossed out the part below that said “Happy Birthday” and wrote “Happy You are Loved day.”

 

Every day is a gift from you, mom. I miss you and I’ll never forget.

 

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i carry your heart with me(I carry it in my heart)

 

Her Secret Cupboard

My mom has a secret cupboard where she stores extra presents that she bought.

I guess it wasn’t actually that secret; my brother and I knew that if we looked in the cupboards in the basement across from the big freezer we would ruin our Christmas/Birthday surprise.

Surprisingly, it was easy for my brother and I to resist the urge to spoil our presents and we mostly left the cupboards alone. That task became more difficult as time went on, though, because my mother had a bit of a present buying addiction and the cupboards had a way of overflowing. She would buy gifts from January until December and usually by around October she’d bought more than enough presents for everyone she knew, so she’d start buying “emergency gifts” or extras for the next year.

It was one of her best and most hoarding-like qualities.

Even though she gave gifts prolifically to those around her and her family, those cupboards in the basement across from the big freezer are still full of “extras”.

This summer I found two Dr. Seuss books there (Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat) that I brought to my new elementary classroom. I knew that she would have wanted to give me a starter care package for my new job and my new kiddos—the cupboards made sure she still could.

And last birthday my dad ciphered through the “extras” and gave me the “Happy Birthday” black socks with cake pieces all over them. This Christmas he found a beautifully hand painted mug still with the tag on the bottom from Ten Thousand Villages, but politely with the price torn off (my mother always taught me it was rude to let someone know how much you’d spent—or saved—on their present).

This was the best gift. This was the gift that read “From: Mom”. This was her still giving and giving even a year and a half after she was gone.

I wonder if some tiny part of her knew…
Knew that she would have to leave early.
Knew that she didn’t want to.
Knew that we would need a cupboard of presents to last us through the years.

I haven’t ravaged through all the extras yet, I still want to be surprised by my mother’s quirky gifts at Christmas and birthdays. But, I have taken a peek and seen baby clothes and house warming wine glasses.

These things won’t make up for the fact that she won’t be there when we move into our first house or if I adopt or have a baby, but a little part of her will be there.

A little part of you will always be here.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart) –-E. E. Cummings

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