This morning I woke in Salem and had to quietly tip toe out of my friend's place to start heading north, it being Mother's Day and all. I got myself some Munchkins for the ride, got Mom's present, and decided to take back roads to NH, rather than the highway. I even drove through my old hometown. It's peculiar--how something can look so familiar yet so distant. I have memories linked to most houses and all stores in that town, yet I see the structures as an adult for the first time. So my memory waxes poetic, "I babysat there..." and my adult eyes think, "Did they always have a three-car garage?" Driving on the bridge over the Merrimac River in Groveland, I had child pangs. It hit me as one of those moments that I would have shared with my child, "Mama used to park on the Groveland side of the river and walk to the Haverhill side to watch the fireworks each summer..." But, there is no child to talk to. These are fleeting moments. But they exist now, whereas before they did not.
Got to Mom's. Gave her a beautiful orange begonia--just couldn't get over the color. And the gift she really wanted: cement. My mom asked for cement for Mother's Day. I felt like a pretty swell kid handing her that Home Depot gift card from little brother and me. She was elated.
We were enjoying the beautiful weather, and she was talking about all the things she wants to do with the gardens and where the new cement path will go, blah blah blah. And I realized how overgrown the gardens were. So I started to weed. She talked, I grabbed grass and roots and rocks out from between the violets and lavendar. I asked if she had a trowel. A few minutes later, we were both on our knees, wearing gloves and tearing at the ground. We talked about serious things and nonsensical things as we tossed clumps of green and dirt behind us. We didn't even look at each other. We just were.
Long ago, an ex pointed out that my mother and I have the same cackle. He was right. And as we talked about family and work and everything in between, we laughed and interjected and went on tangents and cackled. It was quality. At one point, she simply stated that having children made her immortal. It sent me right back to the bridge in Groveland and the pangs that I've been experiencing a bit lately: I'm not immortal. All this time putting together a family tree and archiving family photos--for whom? I think I'm starting to hear a faint tick tock in my soul.
Mom is pretty quiet. Like Grampa was. Not stoic, like him, but rather selfless. More concerned with the needs of others, and therefore apt to sit back a bit. Not always saying what's on her mind or expressing herself well. After hours of weeding, we had done a significant portion of the garden. I decided my back had had enough and I needed to get back to Millie the cat, who was probably trying to figure out how to work a match to burn the building down in anger at me for abandoning her. Mom and I stared at the gardens, talked about working on the vegetable and herb garden in a couple weeks, after I am settled into the new pad. She was happy. She didn't get into detail, but the few things she said were entirely genuine and heart-felt. And this is what Mother's Day should be about. That quality time that doesn't involve giving or receiving, but just being. Neither of us will forget today. And I want it to be the Mother's Day tradition going forward. Because the magic was all in two grown women kneeling in the dirt pulling weeds and talking. Mom, I love you.