Things are going well. Not sure if they’re going well because I’ve been distracted with other things, or if I’m just now able to distract myself with other things because I’m doing well.
We traveled down to my late mother’s house to celebrate Thanksgiving with family. I love being there. My husband and I sleep in her bed. I literally sleep exactly where she died. And I don’t care, either. Sometimes I fantasize that I’m there all alone. I want to get into her bed and peer out at her room from under the covers. I want to imagine what she would be doing if she were still alive. I like to pretend I am a teenager and I get into her bed during summer vacation while she’s up in the morning getting ready for work. I don’t think you ever forget how your mom smells. I remember being in her bed and feeling cozy and happy. That smell conjures up feelings of safety and reliability. I barely ever smell it anymore these days, but when I’m at her house, sometimes it still happens.
I want to lie there and look at her pictures on the wall, stare at the titles of the books on the bookshelf. Look back into her closet and see the still-hanging clothes…the ones I couldn’t get rid of. I want to smell the ocean through the sliding glass door, and watch the white curtains blow gently until I close my eyes.
I love being in her house. I’ll get ready in there, and think of something. “Oh damn, I wish I remembered my shower cap.” And then I’ll open a drawer and one will be tucked away in the back. “I forgot my lipstick.” There’s hers. “I wish I had remembered to bring a hair tie.” I look in a different drawer and it’s there.
My husband remarks on the old, tiny kitchen. I see years of pulling open the cutlery drawer to make a sandwich. He balks at the 70’s countertop. I see countless conversations with my mother sitting on a kitchen stool, asking her about everything from friends to crushes to when would I finally, finally, finally start my period.
“It must be hard being there with your mom gone,” someone said. No, it isn’t. She’s everywhere there. She’s everywhere and she’s not sick and feeling like complete shit. I still find little things there. Grocery store lists, random notes, cards she intended to send, but didn’t. It’s a treasure trove of my mother. It’s stopped in time. She died so quickly. I walk in, a year later, and it still looks like she’s just popped to the store.
Slowly, very slowly, we are making it our own. We’re making decisions on furniture and what needs fixing. But I still treat it like it’s hers. I sweep the floor constantly. I dust as if I live there 24/7. I pull the weeds, water the plants, and still take my shoes off when I come in. When we drag in sand from a beach outing, I immediately clean it up so she’s not disappointed.
When Jay died, one of the first things a therapist told us was to take his carseat out. We were driving around with his carseat still installed for weeks. “It’s not good for you, and it’s not good for your daughter to sit back there and see that. Take it out now.” So, we did. And as soon as it was out, it was a relief. Seeing the empty carseat that used to hold your living child was torture for us and we didn’t realize it until it was out. That reminder did a lot of harm. But this isn’t like that. I feel like I’ll know when it’s time to let that house go. Or maybe it will just become our house naturally, and we’ll never let it go. Either way, for now, I still need it.
I still need her.