As I ran into a local discount store to pick up cleaning supplies and snacks, I experienced a moment that stopped me in my tracks. Amid a variety of gift bags, wrapping paper and ribbons sat a huge display of Mother’s Day greeting cards at the end of a crowded aisle.
I glanced at the wide variety of cards, some religious in tone, many syrupy and sentimental, and my favorite, humorous messages that reflect those funny moments in our relationships. I felt overwhelmed, choking up as a flood of memories washed over me as I thought about my mother, Hilda, who died on Labor Day in 2010.
I miss my mother every day. She was 41 years old when she gave birth to me, the youngest of three daughters; in spite of the fact that she was an “old mom,” she and I could not have had a tighter bond. We talked about everything; no topic was off-limits.
So why now, at this moment, did seeing the cards and knowing I will never be able to physically give my mother one again hit me so hard? It wasn’t the first Mother’s Day after her passing.
No matter. I’ve learned that enduring the grief from the deaths of love ones – my parents and my sister – has no formula, no appropriate time frame for those flash of feelings to erupt at the slightest provocation.
After I gathered myself at the store, I thought about the enduring legacy my mother passed along to my siblings and me. We called her philosophies about life, “Hil-isms,” nuggets of information that she considered the rules of life.
My feelings of sadness started to lift as I thought about some classic Hil-isms. My all-time favorite involved Duchess, my mother’s beloved German shepherd. One day I took Duchess out for a walk and as the pooch and I were heading up the driveway, I shouted, “Duchess, slow down.”
Much to my surprise, my mom shot me a look of disapproval. Then it occurred to me: She was about to scold me for calling the dog by her name. By doing so, an unsavory character could be lurking around the area, hear me call the dog and break into the house at some point. Since the intruder would know Duchess’s name, it would be unlikely for her to rip him to shreds. Little did I know I’d have to think of an alias for my mother’s faithful furry companion.
Another Hil philosophy concerned the perceived danger of leaving home while washer or dryer is running. The rationale? Either of the appliances could go haywire and burn the house down. While we would logically explain to my mother how irrational that sounded and how unlikely it was, it did seep into our consciousness. One of our perfectly sane friends never dares step foot outside his house if his laundry isn’t finished.
Over the years, my husband, family and friends heard these theories, many of which we teased my mom about. Undaunted, she stuck to her beliefs and good-naturedly suggested how misguided we were. When I talk to my friends about these odd observances, they often had their own “Mom-ism”s to contribute.
Who would have thought a routine trip to the store would evoke so many memorable moments – at once funny and poignant – authored by the one woman in my life who is irreplaceable, the inimitable Hil. As much as I kidded her about the “isms,” I know in my heart that they are part of her enduring charm and legacy that none of us could ever forget.