|Me, Mama, Norma Jean|
Mama went on to have five more children, all of whom are indelibly engraved into my soul. My siblings. This is the first year that I will celebrate Mother's Day without my sister PJ. Mama also had one infant who died within a few days of birth because of being born two months prematurely. She was named Tina Maria and is the only one of my siblings that I didn't get to know. Mama gave birth to six girls and one boy during her lifetime. I was the first, the oldest in a twenty-year span of birthing children. She was 19 when I was born and 39 when she gave birth to Fia. Mama would live another thirty years and die when she was a young 69 years old. That was in 1993, and I still miss her presence in my life.
In my mementos drawer, I have a card she sent me one year that for some reason resonated more than others she sent. It has a simple message: "I love you." Underneath those words, in her handwriting, she wrote "I really do, you know." She sent it because I didn't always believe that she did really love me. Her youngest daughter, Fia, was her favorite and the apple of her eye, while I was the oldest, gone from the household long before Fia was born, and I was jealous of their relationship. When I would visit, it was very apparent that their bond was stronger than what I felt I had experienced with Mama.
Every family has its own dynamic; ours came about because my parents had three children in seven years and then stopped. Then, when I was sixteen, my brother Buz was born, and Mama gave birth to three more children in three years. Tina Maria was born after Buz, and then Mama had Markee and Fia, the last of her babies. Fia is now a grandmother herself. We are scattered now, but every few years we get together again. In February of this year we gathered to celebrate PJ's life of 63 years and to bid farewell to our sister.
Time has softened my memories of Mama, but there are moments when she is as present to me as if I could reach out and touch her face. Not long ago I had a dream in which she was convulsed with laughter (I don't remember about what now), but I woke up laughing, a huge smile across my face. It was a memory I cherish, even though she's been gone for more than twenty years, she sure didn't seem very far away just a few months back. Time is linear, but my memories are eternally preserved in my psyche. It's nice to know that I can still make new memories with those I hold dear in my heart.
My own two beautiful babies are also gone from this earth, but they are still not far from me. Unfortunately I don't get to choose when they will visit me in my dreams. It's been so long since Stephen died, fifty years now, that he doesn't appear very often. But Chris visits me regularly. Once you've become a mother, you don't need to worry about that status being taken away just because your children have moved on. You are forever marked as a mother. I had to come to grips with that fact, because when Chris died, I felt as though I was no longer allowed to have that title. But it's just not true: once a mother, always a mother.
|Chris and me|