Back in May of last year, my sister ordered a copy of The Village Magazine, something I had been wanting for months. The Village is a truly lovely publication celebrating the beauty and rawness of motherhood.
It has created such a wonderful space for community, where mamas share in joys, laughter and tears, where we can love each other as though we've known each other our whole lives; where mamas from every walk of life inspire and encourage each other through the valleys and peaks of this incredibly unique and special, if not sometimes daunting, role of being a mama.
My copy accidentally got shipped to our neighbors in the North (I am secretly hoping some mama who reads English and works for their postal service courageously slid it under her shirt to slipped under her mattress at home for a little midnight reading in secret, opening her eyes to the wonder and beauty that some form of motherhood exists exactly the same in every part of the world), and when the post man finally dropped Volume no. 2 at our door, I can't tell you how excited I was to rip open the box and glide my hands over each glossy page.
The theme for this issue is 'Vintage,' a collection of stories, essays and photographs telling the story of motherhood throughout generations, capturing the timeless beauty that motherhood exudes.
I have a few keepsakes that were left to me by my paternal grandparents and my mother, which I like to take out from time to time and look at. A worn, soft cotton robe my mother wore when she was pregnant with me, there's a picture of her wearing it with me in her belly somewhere. A ring that belonged to my grandfather, with an "H" ever so delicately inscribed, reminding me of our Henry family heritage.
Handkerchiefs that belonged to my grandmother. I must have at least two dozen of them, some adorned with lace or crocheted details, some with floral prints, some simply delicate and white. I imagine she always had one tucked neatly into her purse.
There's something romantic and special about a handkerchief. It's personal. It's thoughtful. It's a whole lot more comforting than a piece of disposable paper to rub your nose with or blot away the occasional tear.
They carry stories woven deep inside, of all those little moments we so often take for granted that seem to fall to the ground like dust and get swept up under the rug to be forever forgotten. But, they aren't really. Not the sum of them. For all those little moments - the wiped mouths after a meal with friends, the tear you wipe from your toddler's chubby cheeks, the crumbs you brush off of your jacket after a coffee and shared cake with your mom, the oil and dust smudges you clean from your glasses midday - they are the moments that make life meaningful.
This is something you learn when you lose someone, especially when they were a part of your everyday. After my mother died when I was in high school, it wasn't the extravagant things that she did for me that I missed the most.
It was her everyday presence that made me ache inside.
The way she would tiptoe into my room every morning and whisper for me to wake up, singing songs written and sung by generations past.
The way I would wake up on weekends to the smell of her frying up bacon and pancakes on the griddle, or Southern style grits and eggs.
The image of her sitting on the sofa in our living room, a steaming mug of coffee on the antique heirloom table beside her and a Bible in her lap.
The way she would hum and sway her hips to the smooth jazz station as she prepared dinner.
Her birdlike voice as she sang emphatically to the oldies station, or the memory of her driving along on road trips as I fell asleep in the back of the car while she listened to the nationally syndicated "Delilaaaaah" radio talk show (you know the one, where she plays love songs, people call in about their life woas, and she dishes out advice and encouragement in that make-you-go-to-sleep deep, soothing voice :)).
It wasn't the memories of when she made me a junior prom dress, or took me shopping, or let me get my ears re-pierced that I mourned the most, though I did remember those fondly.
The thing that made me ache the most was her everyday presence.
All those things that seemed mundane, the things I barely gave a second thought to, the things I expected and never imagined not having around...suddenly they all disappeared at once and I was left with this gaping hole, sure it would never be filled again.
It's now fourteen years later, and I have since become a wife and a mother. These transformations and transitions have given me a bit of deeper insight into who my mother was. It has also made me wish for a time where I could sit at her feet, and at the feet of my grandmothers and just listen to them talk - talk about motherhood, about being a wife and how to still be a woman at the same time.
Becoming a mother and a wife has brought me closer to my own mother, but at the same time has deepened the ache I feel for all that I miss and missed out on when she was still here. Sometimes it feels paralyzing, the grief and regret of not truly understanding what - no who - I had when she was here.
And in those moments, I try to remind myself of her everlasting presence. Her presence that lives on through her legacy - in my life and the life of my siblings and our children. Legacy survives grief, and has a way of celebrating the best parts of us.
I also have to remind myself that, though she left us physically, she is never really gone from our hearts. I believe with all my heart that somehow, somewhere she is looking down on our daily lives. I'll share a little story with you that explains why.
It happened on an ordinary evening back in college. It was warm and the air was sticky, as it typically was on hot summer nights in Florida. I can't remember what sparked it, but on that particular night the ache of missing my mama was stronger and flooded my face with tears as I drove home from campus.
My parents's house was set slightly out of the main part of town and they had this sprawling back yard that fed into a small forest. The stars always twinkled brighter there, and I'd often sit outside on the deck, staring up into the night sky with my thoughts swirling about.
That night I pondered, as my sister and I had many times, whether or not our mama could see us. Whether or not she knew what was going on in our little lives. I wished so desperately just to know if she could. So I prayed. I'm not quite sure where the courage came from to pray such a bold prayer, but I think it likely had more to do with desperation and grief than hope and courage.
I settled back in my chair, breathing in the evening's warmth, and closed my eyes. When I spoke, it came from deep within my heart, a place even I often couldn't reach. I asked (begged) God to show me shooting star...if my mother could see us, if she knew what was happening in our lives. As I glanced up a few seconds later, that's when I saw it.
A quick blur of light in the deep sapphire sky, but as unmistakable as my own breath, there it was: my very own shooting star. I could hardly believe it. I began laughing and crying simultaneously as my mind and heart processed what my eyes had just witnessed.
A promise. A gift. An immeasurable reassurance that would stay tucked deep in my heart for the rest of my life, giving hope to each day that my heartsong mourned my mother's absence.
And so, as I hold my mother's broach, my grandfather's ring, my grandmother's well-loved hankies...I am reminded that all these moments I'm trying to figure out and "get through" in my new roles as mother and wife...they're special.
As mundane, trivial or delating they may seem to me at the time, they are what makes the life we're living. These are the very things we miss when they're gone.
So here I am, deciding to treasure them in my heart. I may not like washing dishes or folding laundry, but I'll work harder at finding the joy, wherever it's hiding.
For I'm sure, if I look hard enough, I'll find it.