For Mom

For Mom

Suting

I promise to try and not let the loss of you heavy my steps. Instead, I will find freedom in your freedom. I miss you. You are near me now, but so fast disappearing. You are the glimmer of white in the distance, the sweetness of the ache in my chest. I love you. Pale blossom: your fragrance is sweet even as it leaves me, like a vanishing trace of angels. I thank you for my life itself.

—March 23, 2013

 

This was for Mom. I wrote it last year, but I never posted it here. Today, it seemed appropriate.

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When It’s Spring and the Ground is Stirring

When It’s Spring and the Ground is Stirring

I remember living sometimes, when it’s spring and the ground is stirring. I remember people—their footsteps hard against the packed earth. I remember mornings of flower blossoms and seeing girls out in their summer clothes, just slightly too soon. This is life: a fleeting progression from youth to age, just slightly too soon. It’s all we have. And yet, and yet…

It’s not that I wish for more. I abhor the slow track. Spring is the dying time in my mind. It is the heartbreaking loneliness. It is the bitterness of retreat. But that’s not true: what I’m picturing is protracted winter, instead. Like the winters when my parents left me. The ones that meandered into April and then May. Continue reading

Legacy

Dad and me

I was, apparently, a hella out of it baby who slept lots.

Dad died three years ago, this morning. 6:47 am, to be exact. I was awake for it, by some betrayal of my body, staring at my phone as the minutes counted down. The battery died before I got there, cheating me out of the most self-indulgent memorial I can fathom (besides, of course, this). I remember the exact time because I can still hear the doctor’s voice pronouncing it; somewhere, it’s still echoing in my ears. And in that place there’s a pathetic fallacy: eternal late winter without the hope of spring.

But, here and now, I know tomorrow will be warm, at least.

Continue reading

There’s No Mom in Mothers’ Day

So this is my first Mothers’ Day without Mom.  Part of me wishes I could have just holed up in my room and ignored the world: not have seen the girls holding balloons that said “MOM” on the subway or the numerous Facebook posts saying I love my mom.  I don’t know what I’d do without her.

Well.  I can tell you that the first thing you do is cry a lot.  But you’ll want to keep it mostly together for the EMTs.  Their job is easier if you’re not in hysterics.  You offer them gummy bears.  It’s nine in the morning.  Your mother’s body is cooling in the next room.  Her blood is on your shoes.  They refuse the gummy bears.

But it’s not your mother lying in her bed with the sheet pulled over her face.  It can’t be her.  Your mom wakes up early so she can take forever in the bathroom.  She asks you whether her hair looks better up or down when honestly to you she always just looked like Mom either way: you couldn’t see her in any other light or capacity.  In your mind you see Mom in a serviceable black dress with her hair up yelling that you’re making her late.  But the next morning she’d be the one making you late, her favorite boots unzipped even as you ran together for the train.  Then Mom in the last few days: too weak to get out of bed.

There’s no way she’s gone.  You need her.  Who else will call you baobao in public or remind you not to get home too late?  Who else will make your favorite foods when you’ve been away from home?  Who else will need you like Mom?

The next thing you do is…no, you’ll still cry a lot.  For good reasons or for no reason.  Without meaning to, even.  In the most awkward settings possible.  When that doesn’t cut it your brain tries laughing.  And you can see the way her best friend stares at you, a worried crease between her eyebrows.  You know she will distantly adopt you now: hover slightly more than she ever did in the past, make you a Chinese dinner sometimes because now Mom can’t.

It’s really her friends that trigger the next thing you feel: the incredible guilt for the selfishness you’re displaying.  All of the people Mom touched in her life come out of the woodwork: discreetly asking if you need help with college, buying flowers for the frankly rushed funeral.  Talking to your grandmother about what her life will become.

You’re not the only one who’s lost her, you selfish idiot.  All these other people have as well.  You miss the woman who cooked for you, who took care of you.  You haven’t missed the woman she was outside of your life.  If you mourn her, mourn all of her.  You’ve been raised already.  Mourn that she still had other work on this earth.

It doesn’t work.  For a couple days you want to die.  This is well after the funeral, mind you.  The funeral was actually beautiful.  You could see her again, face made peaceful.  There’s no blood on her teeth.  She’s in her favorite dress (a particularly Jackie O number—a cut that neither you nor your sister could ever pull off) and surrounded by flowers.  Why does she have to be put into the earth?  Why can’t you just keep her in that room, so that you could go and see her whenever you wanted?

You’ll never visit her in the earth.  You’re almost certain of this. There’s no point.  She’s not there.  She’s off wandering in the canyons or watching the slow dance of stars in the night sky.  You hope she doesn’t think of you, doesn’t even remember who you are.

Because you’ll still find ways to disappoint her.  You know you will.  And you’ll do them anyway.  Spend your life throwing yourself into “boys’ work” or staying out too late roaming the streets.  Write things that would make her sad.  Write things she would hate.  Listen to degenerate music.  Cut your hair or get tattoos.

This is where the social workers come in, maybe.  You’ll have to talk to many of them, and they’ll tell you to stop feeling guilty about it.  Stop sabotaging your relationships with other people.  To let yourself be sad.

But the only way to do that is to completely forget her.  And you’ve tried.  But she’s saturated in your life.  You need to make some more memories without her.  She shows up everywhere in your town, or you’ll dream of her.  She’ll even haunt your thoughts at night when you can’t sleep.

You’ll try to scrub her from your life: throw yourself into school and work.  Start a fucking blog. Keep doing the things she hates so from wherever she is she’ll make you feel guilty.  Because you love her disappointment.

You love the woman she was.  You love your mother, who gave you her flesh and blood.

I don’t know what comes after this in post-Mom life. This is only as far as I’ve gotten.

Back to the Keyboard.

Image

Grand piano guy at Washington Square Park

It’s Sunday at noon and I’ve been in the library for about an hour already.  I don’t know how I’m supposed to concentrate when there is so much blue sky outside the window, but I couldn’t bear to go down into the bowels of Bobst, where there is no sense of time and even your directional orientation is only a trick of architecture.

Today is reverently cloudless.  The kind of blue that reminds me of summer days in California when I used to roam through the dead canyons to the strawberry fields, or cross the tiny trickle of a creek that ran adjacent to our disgustingly uniform housing development.  There is an idyllic quality to my memories of California now, not just for the gorgeous stoop of flowering trees or the joys of being fifteen and surrounded by the most friends I’ve ever had in my life, but because my parents were still alive then, and my sister and I shared a room with sky-blue walls and secrets.

We had an old Yamaha piano that none of us could play properly, but I don’t think I can separate the sound of my sister practicing on it from any part of my childhood.  Pachelbel was just making a comeback and I wasn’t yet sick of hearing her play it.  Music from the Amelie soundtrack was another favorite: so cool and French, an escape from the unrelenting cheerfulness of life outside.

Pianos.  I can’t get away from them.  My mother, apparently, took lessons specifically while I was in the womb.  She remembered as little from them as I did.

I miss her.  I miss Dad, too.  I miss Dad in a different way: because it has been longer, I guess.  Because I never felt like he hung around much more than his allotted two weeks afterwards.  But I miss driving with him at night: our paper route that wove among those haciendas lit up in the darkness.  I miss seeing Calavera at night, with its massive hill overlooking a city turned into fairy lights.  I miss making up stories for them.  I miss Dad driving in the dark, 10 miles an hour as I tried to hit driveways but miss cars.

There was one night when, going down Chestnut, we stopped at a stop sign for thirty seconds too long.  “Sorry,” my dad said finally, shaking his head.  “I was waiting for it to turn green.”

Take me back to those days please, when I was a bookishly smart teenager with the universe’s nerdiest glasses perched on my nose and two parents and a sister and played the cello badly and was on the JV academic league and paid no thought to life after debt other than maybe having unreasonable aspirations of being an architect and literally building the world.

It’s no good to wish for it.  Time can be stupidly linear when you least expect it.  You were forced to grow older, and change into the girl you are now: the one who should be writing about censorship because she actually cares passionately about it, the one who in twenty-five minutes will head to a practice room and, with a classmate, pound out seventh chords on yet another Yamaha piano in an attempt to imprint the intangible into her mind.

Pianos.  We’re still at pianos and a sky blue with secrets.  Life is like the world, in the same way time resembles space. They both aren’t that big at all. Or rather, they are large but repetitive, baffling but stupidly beautiful.