Today as I was driving to meet my sister-in-law, I suddenly and surprisingly found myself thinking about my mother. Sunday was her birthday, and she would have been 65-years-old. I didn’t feel much sadness on Saturday, which is my brother’s birthday, and I didn’t feel particularly sad on Sunday either. Matt and I spent Sunday walking around Pittsburgh in the beautiful fall weather, talking about our trip, and it was a very good day.
But on that walk, Matt asked me what my mom would think of our travels, and I was stumped, lost, totally without an answer.
“I think she,” I began but stopped. “She would say, uh.” Nothing. “I think she’d think it was cool, but I think she’d be worried for us,” I concluded without much conviction.
Matt chuckled, noting that from everything I’d told him about my mother, he thought I would say with conviction that she would be thrilled for us. And she would be, I assured him, but I went on to say that I think that maybe when you become a mother, you reserve the right to feel afraid when your children decide to take off for a jaunt around the world. Matt determined that this was fair. I laughed. And the conversation ended. We moved on to something else, and I didn’t really give it a second thought until today.
Today as I was driving to meet Amanda, I was thinking about a friend’s recent wedding. I was thinking about the fact that her mother, out-of-the-blue, paid for me and the other attendant to get our hair and makeup done on the day of the wedding. The memory made me smile because this friend’s mother is not the kind who you expect to do that kind of thing. And as I was thinking about it, I was suddenly transported to the day of my own wedding, when I was at the salon getting my hair and makeup done. In my memory of that moment as I thought about it today, it was as though my mother was there with me, paying for her daughter and their friends to look beautiful for the pictures. It was as though it really happened because in my mind’s eye, I could see it exactly as it would have happened. We would have all finished up at around the same time, and as we reached into our wallets, my mom would have said that she’d already taken care of everything. As we walked out of the salon, I would have assured her that she didn’t have to do that. And even though she and my father would have by that point spent a small fortune on my wedding, and even though she would have known that my friends expected to pay for themselves, she would have smiled at me and told me that she wanted to, that I shouldn’t worry about it. She would have done it because she was the kind of mother who did that kind of thing.
I can’t explain why this vision was so poignant for me. I can’t even quite figure out why it caught me so completely off guard. I think that it has something to do with her birthday, with the fact that sometimes sadness hits us when we least expect it, when we wistfully think that maybe the window for sadness has passed unopened. But I think, finally, and with some conviction, that Matt was right: my mother would be excited for us to take this trip; she would applaud our adventurous spirits, make us promise to take lots of pictures, and to take great care of each other. I also think, finally, and with some conviction, that I was right, that she would have reserved the right to feel worried about us. What struck me most about my memory today, my memory of a time that never even existed as it existed for me today, is that her love for both of us, even for the man she never got the chance to meet, would have helped to bolster us through whatever hard times lay ahead and would have helped to assure us that doing this trip really is the right thing for us to do right now in our lives. It’s strange, I know, but today there is a part of me that wants to tell her that I get it, that I love that I can have memories of her in places where she didn’t actually exist, that I treasure all of my memories, the real ones and the imagined ones, and that while I can never erase a mother’s worry, Matt and I will take lots and lots of pictures, and we will certainly take great care of each other.