I made Shepherd’s Pie last night. It was really good, but not as good as yours. I couldn’t get the mashed potato peaks to peak the way you used to no matter how fast I whipped them. Too much cream? Not enough? I don’t know. My Lemon Love Notes are never very good either – overdone bottom, underdone top. And the beef stew you used to make…mine is never good the way yours was. Actually, I think I only made it once because it just wasn’t very good. Nothing ever tastes as good as yours did, Mom.
The other day I sat in my car and watched you walk into the office. You stopped to pick something up – I’m not sure what it was – and I was frozen, watching you. The way the sun touched your hair, and your long skirt and your gait…the way your profile appeared as you looked with a furrowed brow at the paper you picked up. That ordinary moment, for whatever reason, stood out to me.
I wondered what people see when they see you. Do they see a mother of five? I wonder if they can see you are about to retire. I wonder if they know that you love antiques and flowers and fine wine. Do they know you collect sea glass? Do they know that you have held hands with the same man for 45 years and that when he’s frustrated with you he calls you Veronica in a deep sing-songish type of voice? I wonder if they know you can curse like a sailor…or how much you love dogs…or that your favorite color is pink. Do they know you like caramels? And beef jerky? Do they know you like to tailgate? Do they know how much you miss your mom? You remind me of her, Mom…your hands, your smile, your voice. I wonder if people know that you have 10 grandchildren. I wonder if anyone in this whole world knows how much your children love you…
…I love you so much my heart aches to think about it.
I don’t know what people see when they see you. They don’t know you the way I do. They don’t know how you used to dance around the kitchen. They don’t know what you look like when you walk around with Victoria under your arm the way you do. They don’t remember what it was like to sit at the kitchen table with you and watch you do crossword puzzles in your bathrobe with your mascara all smeary from the night before.
They don’t remember that awful meatloaf you made once (and only once) with the hard-boiled egg in the middle (I was terrified of that meatloaf for the entire day, Mom). I can still see the red and white checkered cookbook out on the table, opened up to what I was sure would be the death of me. I’m afraid that meal may have left deep wounds in my psyche.
They don’t remember the afro permanent you got some time around 1975 that scared the heck out of Brett. They don’t remember watching terrible movies on the Lifetime network with you, all of us girls draped across the bed the way we were. They don’t know what a hooker-poker is. They didn’t smoke cigars with you every other weekend in Blacksburg. They didn’t go shopping with you. They don’t remember the berries we ate at Clyde’s. They don’t know your laugh. They don’t have the stories I have. They don’t know like I do, deep in my heart, how very similar I am to you.
Whatever people do see when they look at you, it could never be as good as what I see.
I hope you have the best Mother’s Day ever, Mama. I love you…
P.S. I forgive you for the meatloaf.