This year I could not get out to the garden where we spread my mum’s ashes for Mother’s day. At the end of June, when we would normally go out for her birthday, I was incapacitated. Limited in my ability to walk from sciatica and plantar fasciitis, limited in my ability to think, to plan, to move from one moment to the next. My mother’s birthday passed. It is past the middle of July and I have not made it out to the garden. The irises, which were the reason we spread her ashes where we did, are long past bloom. Like so many things this year, I was not there when I ought to have been.
“Covid”, we murmur. Half apologetically, with a sense of frustration. Sometimes it is probably more of a yell, strangled behind the weight of fear and worry and exhaustion from planning trips from our homes which are more tactical strikes instead of runs to the grocery store for milk and dish soap.
And still, my mother is with me. I made pastry this morning for a quiche later in the day. A meal to thank a friend who will clamber up on a ladder with $20 worth of supplies and fix what is only occasionally and in very particular circumstances, a leak in my house. I stared at my hands, freckled from all the sun I have gotten. I started at the blunt fingers and too short nails. I stared at the ring I bought myself when Owen left. I stared at an area of new pink skin, left behind when I scratched a mosquito bite one too many times.
I see my mother in my writing. Not what I write here, but in the loops of my cursive/non cursive blend. I see it in my compulsive lists and scrawled notes. I see the work of her hands still in parts of my gardens. The plants are new, changed, transformed, but I can stand to left and down from the rhubarb and hear her jokes about putting rhubarb and strawberry plants and calling it the pie patch.
I see her in what she was not, what I am not. In the pie plate filled with a light and flaky pastry. My mother’s pastry landed heavy, sodden. It sat uncomfortably in the middle of your being. I see it in my attempts to be kind, to be gracious and the careful thought about where and when and why I fail at this. I see it in my honesty about my current fragility.
I don’t know if I will get to the botanical garden, sit on her bench and tell her what has happened. I don’t know if I will climb up the stairs to the bell in the Japanese garden, pull back the log and let it swing forward. I don’t know if I will hear the bell ring out, summoning my mother, an accoustic reminder that I marked something beyond standard holidays.
And I don’t know if it matters. Perhaps I summon her as well when I stare at marks and freckles on my hands.