There are many things I remember about my Mother but this may come as a shock to you; I do not remember what day she died. I’m sure there many people could tell me but I don’t seek out that information and will promptly forget it if anyone tells me. This is my choice and I know it’s a little odd as I am a little odd but I’ll give you my reasons and maybe you’ll understand.
I know that many people set aside the day of a loved ones death as a day to remember them and it struck me that there was so much sorrow attached to that day that my mind would avoid the remembering to avoid reliving the pain. I didn’t want to avoid the remembering so I decided instead to forget the day.
My mother walked this earth for thousands of days, many of them with me, many others before I was born and after I “grew up” and left home.
I remember oh so many of those days, some with joy and wonder and some with tears and anger. As with any mother/daughter relationships there is usually a lot of both joy and tears and so it was with us.
I remember the days and hours she spent teaching me to read when I was four. She was patient. I was not. We were both incredibly stubborn so the deed got done but not without tears and frustration, mostly on my part. Then there was the joy when I finally got it, when my brain finally hooked up the final few neurons and I could read. I was so happy and she was so proud. I always say that she taught me to read in self defense, so that she could hand me a book when I asked the fourteen thousandth “Why” question that day. It’s a funny thing to say but it isn’t completely true. I begged her from the moment I found out that things “said” things...all sorts of things: cereal boxes, books, shoe boxes, receipts, newspapers...all sorts of things. I had to know what they said so I begged and she taught me. I remember those days like a treasure that changed my life because they did.
I remember one weekend when I was in college at Berea. Mommy had moved back to Jackson County and I had come to visit. It was a bitter cold snowy weekend but we decided to bundle up and walk to the Gap. It was five miles each way but it was a glorious adventure. We talked the whole way and laughed at the way our breath would freeze to crystals. The trees were a winter wonderland and the whole world was silent of the sounds of man. A few birds would occasionally shake down snow on us and a squirrel would make its annoyance at us known from time to time but other than that there was a hush all around us, with only our voices dancing in the icy sunshine. We talked of all manner of things and sang old songs we both remembered. It was the best day I can remember with Mommy, partly because it was just ours. No one but my mother would have thought to walk to the Gap in that kind of weather and no one but her daughter would have been foolish and brave and strong enough to go with her.
I remember a Christmas Eve when I was quite young. It was late and I couldn’t sleep. When I was anxious (as I often was) I would start yawning and couldn’t stop. I called yawning breathing and I’d call out to her “Mommy, I can’t stop breathing.” She’d laugh and let me get up and make me milk and cornbread...the only known cure for uncontrollable yawning. That night, as usual, she let me get up and gave me milk and cornbread but instead of sending me back to bed she let me set up with her and watch “A Christmas Carol” with her. It was the one with George C Scott...still my favorite. They used to run it every Christmas Eve. I never forgot that day.
I remember Sunday dinners and learning how to cook and can and everything. She once told me a story about myself that still tickles me. She said that one day while she was canning I came into the kitchen and announced that she had to teach me everything she knew and that when she asked me why I said, “Because the ones that made everything told me I had to learn.” I don’t know that I could ever live long enough to learn everything she knew but she made a huge dent in the task. I now know how to quilt, can, cook, iron, plant a garden, churn, make lye soap, dye yarn, build a bookcase, make homemade ice cream, birth a goat, milk a cow, clean a stable, etc etc etc.
I have many days with her in my memory and I will never have the time and space to tell all of them but it seems important to me to carry them in my heart. There was only one day when she died and that is of little importance compared to all the days she lived. Those I will remember. The last, I’m fine with forgetting because she lives within me still.