I am missing the small things.
If you’ve ever lost a loved one, you soon realize the moments that haunt you, that you would give anything to get back, are the little ones. The Cheerios moments.
Mother’s Day falls on my birthday this year. At times like these, I try to celebrate how blessed I am. This year, a bit of sorrow creeps into the corners. It is the first birthday I won’t hear my father’s voice sounding oh-so-happy about what happened 40-some years ago, when his sixth daughter came into the world and he handed out pink bubble-gum cigars. And even though it’s been a couple of years since my mother died, I still miss her sage words, her calm way.
I call the times I miss Cheerios moments because I recall a little girl who was on the Oprah show years ago. Her mother was dying. When asked what her favorite memory with her mother was, it was not the birthdays, the vacations or the big moments any of us usually emphasize. It was sitting with her mother in the kitchen at midnight, eating Cheerios. Her mom couldn’t sleep and so they sat together, munching and talking.
Tonight, as I cleaned up the kitchen, it was after 10 pm. The hour, the rain falling softly on the roof and the mundane act of running soapy water to wash the counters, took me back to my childhood home just a few years ago. I had tidied the kitchen, after cooking for my parents. Then the three of us sat in the living room, TV on to the Lawrence Welk reruns they were so fond of (over the years I had learned not to grit my teeth and just try to enjoy the kitschy appeal of the sherbet-colored dresses and bouffants).
My children were in the spare bedroom, sleeping. I was, for a brief time, a daughter again instead of a mother. We talked about how work was going. I asked my father for gardening advice. My mother wanted to hear about the articles I was writing. She loved the business articles best and was eager to chime in on current events, her business sense still sharp–even at 82. They shared memories of their younger years. We talked about how old friends were doing.
Nothing earth shattering in that evening. Nothing to make anyone sit up and take notice. It was one of many such evenings over the years—from the time I was a Lincoln Park Trixie, traveling home every other month to visit and get a home-cooked meal; to the years when none of us got any sleep due to my colicky baby; to the years when that “baby” sat at the kitchen table with us and was taught every tactical Shanghai maneuver in the book by my parents, who fancied themselves card sharks. And on to the years when I was caretaking and they were the willing recipients.
As I write and remember, it’s literally a physical pain in my heart. I’m not fond of the new normal that took hold after my parents died. I’ve been moving relentlessly into it, not looking back. But tonight, I allow myself to feel what I miss. Nana Mouskouri plays on my iPod, singing Gloria Eterna. If you translate the Greek into English, she opens the song with, “Wherever we go we keep memories.”
Thank God we do. Because at a certain point in time, they’re all that is left to us of a big, big love.