Letter to Myself in Mourning

Dear Myself in Mourning: I am writing to you from the future to say that it is worth living towards. I know it feels as though the world has relinquished all of its joy and purpose. I know life feels … Continue reading

My Christmas Memories

In conjuring up my earliest Christmas memories, I’m taken back to when there was just mom, dad, and me. We were living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. And I was still eager to point out that my birth had transformed my … Continue reading

Remembering My Mother

They say mourning grows easier with time, but that isn’t quite right—at least it hasn’t been for me. Perhaps the loss becomes more normal, but that is not to say it ever becomes comfortable. Losing a loved one creates a … Continue reading

Like Any Emotion

I’ve never seen my father loose his temper. I’ve never heard him raise his voice or witnessed his silent anger. Not once. Not ever. And while my mother was a more passionate presence in my life, I’ve never seen my parents … Continue reading

When We Laugh

Family trips are a rarity in my family. When I was a young child, my parents would send me to Grenada for a month. Sometimes one or both of them would join me for a week or so. After my … Continue reading

Mourning on Mother’s Day

On any given day, someone is rejoicing and someone is grieving. Mother’s Day is no different. There are mothers being pampered and others being mourned and remembered. It is a day, like so many, when we’re reminded of the intersections between the living and the dead. Within one generation there can be women who mourn while they are also being celebrated.

Mother’s Day makes me think about life and death. I grieve with those for whom this is another in a line of Mother’s Days without the child they want but cannot have, or without the child they had but lost. I also rejoice with those of you who are celebrating Mother’s Day as a mother (or an expectant mother) for the first time. Life is always a miracle, but for some that miracle comes after years of yearning, disappointment, and loss. Regardless of whether your road to motherhood was short or long or easy or arduous, your first Mother’s Day as a mother will be full of life and joy. Savor it.

For me, Mother’s Day will always have a component of mourning added to the celebration of life. I feel grateful for the mother who birthed and raised me. I am glad to be alive. I’m so thankful for the mother I had and the memories we shared, but I can’t celebrate Mother’s Day without some sadness or the wish that my mother could still be here.

My mother died more than a decade ago, but on Mother’s Day that loss feels especially fresh. And I know that I am not alone in my bereavement. Every Mother’s Day I think about those for whom it will be the first since their mother died. I remember the year of sad seasonal firsts after my mother passed away. The happier the occasion used to be, the more her absence rendered subsequent celebrations empty. For me, holidays were the hardest. Every milestone became a heavy burden to bear. Those first few years, when the loss was still a fresh cut to my heart, seeing everyone else’s joy felt like filling my wound with salt. For a while, all happiness was a reminder of what I’d lost.

There are a lot of people mourning on Mother’s Day. I know because of my experiences visiting the cemetery. There is always a traffic jam outside the entrance, and finding a parking spot is like discovering a bilingual, three-winged unicorn on the subway. I felt painfully self-conscious one year when I arrived to find a picnic occurring a few tombstones away. The family had lively music playing from an open car, lawn chairs, and a box of pizza. I didn’t begrudge their way of marking the day, but it was a distracting contradiction to my own. Now I try to avoid the cemetery on Mother’s Day. I don’t like to be there with a crowd. I like it to be quiet and private. I want it to feel like it’s just me and my love for her.

There are lots of emotions being experienced on Mother’s Day. Some have mothers; others have memories. For some it’s sad or complicated; for others it’s purely celebratory. Not everyone knew his or her mother—or liked her. Not everyone’s childhood provided healthy love and happy nostalgia.

But whatever you feel, whether good, bad, or mixed, know that someone else out there is in a similar emotional position. You’re not alone in feeling those feelings or thinking those thoughts. Whatever Mother’s Day is like for you, you’re not the only one.

 

Family Meals

As a little girl, Easter Sunday was all about the dress. And as a girl who felt fiercely loyal to the conventions of her gender, buying that dress was an opportunity to assert every aspect of my juvenile femininity. I wanted pastels, frills, flowers—and the dress had to pass the twirl test. The look I was going for could best be described as Southern belle, debutante, ballerina, flower girl, fairy tale princess.

It was rare that my parents became consumers due to the commercialized sentiments of a holiday. Christmas wasn’t focused on presents. We didn’t buy Halloween or Easter candy. I remember just a few seasonal shopping rituals: Every fall dad would take me to buy a new pair of sneakers (always the same brand, always the same color). I’d also get a new pair of dress shoes for school. And every spring, as Easter approached, mom would take me to the same store to buy a new dress of my choosing.

In our family, a holiday was a day that brought and kept us all home. There were no jobs, schools, or extracurricular activities—no parties or events—we had to go to. It was a day to be under the same roof—a day of rest and family togetherness.

Easter Sunday was also about the family meal. With our divergent schedules, it was a rarity that all five of us sat at the same table at the same time to eat. Family meals were a gift. I cherished those times. They reminded me of how much I liked and loved my family.

Liking my family is different from loving them. Familial love often flows from biology, chemistry, and conditioning. I love my family because they are my family. But I like them because of who they are—regardless of any relationship to me.

Usually family meals would become a vehicle for us to make each other laugh. We’d reminisce, make jokes, and tease. We’d recount stories of our individual and common life experiences. Food was the centerpiece, but love and laughter were the point. To this day, few sounds make me happier than that of my family’s laughter. Few sights swell my heart more than the broad smile of a family member.

My family has changed. I’ve lost and I’ve gained. Sadly, the five became four when my mother died. And now I have new family on my husband’s side. Easter Sundays (and the like) look different now. My husband and I rarely get to recreate the stay-at-home holidays I cherished as a child. I see my biological family less often, but that only makes the meals we do share more special.

Especially in light of how much we’ve lost and how weighed down we’ve been by sadness in the past, all I want most holidays is to share a leisurely meal with my family and hear them all laugh.