Monday, March 3, 2014

10 Years and Still Standing

The more time passes, the more I'm surprised by the little things I remember about my mom.

Just a few days ago I was making an Oreo pie crust and desecrating the cookies by opening them in half and scraping out whatever synthetic byproduct it is that Nabisco calls "creme filling." While committing that unholy deed I had an almost visceral memory of my mom--someone who rarely succumbed to any sugar, much less the Nabisco kind--doing the same thing. Twisting open each cookie, using the flat end of a butter knife, and plopping the filling out into the sink.

Or like when I open my little red jewelry bags that she got me just a few days before she died. Sometimes, while searching for an elusive pair for my earring, I think about that day. It was a Monday and we went into this little boutique on University Avenue, that has long since gone out of business, as we were waiting for our table at the Bombay House. I chose out a couple tops and while I was in the dressing room my mom decided I needed this set of three beaded, red bags. The shirts have long-since gone to DI due to puberty and peasant frocks going out of style, but the bags are still a perfect fit.

Even though these memories are still very real, they have grown uber stale. I know them all by heart. I can predict which things are going to remind me of her unique way of putting on lipstick, or which people will make me recall the way she turned her head and slapped her thigh when she laughed really hard, but I can never change those memories. They are just on a repeating loop in my subconscious. Reminding me each time that I won't ever have new stories about my mom. 

No matter how hard I scratch, I will never uncover something new in those memories. In fact, not only will I not discover something new, but that bank of memories will just slowly get smaller and smaller; the continuous loop running shorter and shorter. Even with the agile mind of a 24 year old I can't how it would smell when I would burrow into her shirt and cry. Or exactly what her big, black purse looked like. Was the zipper silver? And there was a big pocket in front--or were there two on each side?

While I ache for those memories I know I have already forgotten, I want even more for my mom to know me as the person I am today. Now that I know we would have more to talk about than ever, I'm stuck having this one-sided conversation. Or worse, I try to make up her responses by patching together memories to answer my hypotheticals. Either way, I end up feeling cheated and wondering if it would have been better if I had never known her. Easier to deal if I didn't know how infinitely cool she was. 

But, like the amazing movie About Time reminded me, "we're all traveling through time together, every day of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable ride." Every one of us is a time traveler and, like it or not, time has one speed: forward. As much as I would love to spend one more week with my mom body surfing at Hukilau beach, Smithsonian hopping on the mall, or even cuddling up with a new book and a warm bed, I just cannot. The only thing I can do is a live a life she would be proud of. And I can't do that if I am not unequivocally in the present.

 So here I am. Living. Moving forward.

We've all got reasons we wish we could go back and travel upstream to fix a mistake or revisit the good old days, but the more we focus on the past, the more we'll miss the ride. And memories don't taste nearly as good as the actual experience.

Before I give one last toast to the present, allow me one last bit of nostalgia. Just for today. In the first few seconds of this video you'll hear Emma ask a question that I still ask to this day (but with a little different vocabulary) and I like my dad's answer. I really hope it's true.


Becca said...

Love you Alex! Thinking of you and your family today. The thing I Remember most about your mom was her sitting on the porch talking to one if her hundred best friends or eating dinner with your family in the evening and her being the last to sit because she had one more spice to add to the already delicious meal!! Love her and you.

Carolina said...

Alex this is beautiful. There is no doubt in my mind that your mom is proud of you now. Your mom was the most sincere and loving person I ever met and I know that she loves the amazing and caring person that you've become. Thank you for sharing these tender memories!