Today my Mother would have celebrated her 68th Birthday. We would have taken her out to a Tex-Mex restaurant where she would have ordered cheese enchiladas. And after dinner, she would have been presented with an assortment of gifts but also with the traditional gift of “Mama Pajamas” that her three girls picked out every year.
Can I make it through this post? It’s still so difficult, even after 16 years. Receiving her cancer diagnosis ripped the seams of my world apart at 17. I watched her bravely fight for her life through chemo and radiation. I proudly witnessed her come out of her shy shell, as she became the “chemo cheerleader” and adopted her fellow chemo patients. She was self-described as painfully shy, but her illness brought out the warrior in her. I held her hand when she took her last breath, and the core of me, is still holding it. Death can not separate the bond between a mother and her child.
The lump in my throat is burning and I can barely see past the fog of my tears, but today is Mama’s Birthday, so I must press on and celebrate the person who I wish you all could’ve known. You would have loved her.
Mama was an only and doted on child, who grew up with the sounds of the river gurgling past her bedroom window. She was an excellent water-skier, who once watched the “falsie” breasts she’d stuffed into her bikini top, float in front of the boy she liked. That boy’s name was Buster, and she had lost contact with him after high school but he attended her funeral. In fact, many former classmates drove from all over Texas to say their goodbyes.
Mama was voted “Most Beautiful” twice in high school, and she was mortified by the attention. As I mentioned, she was truly shy, so she wasn’t faking humility while thinking she was “all that”. Her daughters loved looking at her yearbook photos, where she was forced to pose in a convertible, but the accolades made her blush.
Mama introduced me to real music. She was a sweet and nurturing housewife, but she’d been no angel in her youth. Mama loved the blues and rock n’roll. I’d often find her basking in the sun of the bay window of our Houston home, while alternating between reading books and listening to Muddy Waters or Johnny Winter records. She was a badass bookworm.
Mama loved the underdog. She was a firm believer in looking past the surface of a rebellious soul and seeking out their true heart. She didn’t believe in giving up on anyone, even if the rest of society had. She was a sucker for so-called bad boys, and we had a lot of them over for a warm meal.
Mama truly was my best friend and I was her shadow-girl. We just had a special relationship. We were kindred spirits with opposite personalities that balanced each other so harmoniously. I admired her patience and kindness while she admired my boldness and quick wit. I don’t know if parents often make their children feel like they can learn something from them, but I know Mama made me feel that way. That’s a pretty special thing to feel as a child.
I only got to spend 19 years with my one of a kind Mother, and that’s hardly enough time. Still, I’m grateful for the time we did have. Hug your Mother if you’re fortunate enough to be able to do so. Really squeeze her. And ask her questions about her life. Listen to her stories, soak them in and write them down in detail. Just trust me on this.
I’ll leave you with a song that Mama used to play as she twirled me around the kitchen floor. She was a shorty like me (5’3″).
Short People by Randy Newman
*Her Birthday was 10/9, which is when I started this post. It just took some time to put my emotions aside, and post it. I love you, Pajama Mama!