Sunday, May 11, 2014

Memory

Midnight, not a sound from the pavement.
Has the moon lost her memory? She is smiling alone. 
In the lamplight the withered leaves collect at my feet,
and the wind, begins to moan.

The music filtered to my ears as I sat and watched Zoe and Talia sing a version of Memory for their voice recital on Friday night. It was the first time their teacher had allowed them to hold a microphone right in their hands, close to their moving lips. It was the first time their angelic voices could really be heard.

To be quite truthful, I could have listened to them sing all night. But as I sat in the choir room and heard the girls nail all the right notes (it's okay to be proud at times, right?), I was transported back to when I was a child, to when my mom would turn on the light rock station as we cleaned the house. To when she'd crank up that song, Memory, so loud that the speakers would vibrate and my chest resonated, and I could still hear the words over the drone of the vacuum cleaner.

Thirty years have passed since those days, but each time I hear that song, I remember so much. Being annoyed at having to participate in the act of cleaning. Realizing that we had far too many knick-knacks to move around and under which we were expected to dust. Thinking that music was a powerful force in my life, and feeling sheepish at the fact that I loved Barbra Streisand. And most importantly, understanding that, even if it only happened once a week, our moment with Babs was a time during which my mother revealed herself: a side of her came to the surface that most often, stayed buried deep.

For my mom wasn't the type to open up, even to her children. She was a practical, sensible, play by the rules sort of mother who thought about what the people up the street would say when she made some of her decisions. She'd never have a blog like this or tell you what she honestly thought (unless you were her child, of course). She kept her emotions and motivations close to the vest, as they say, and she still does. Maybe she could have had more confidence. Maybe she could have had more support from her family. Maybe she was just afraid, of how to parent and of doing something incorrectly. I think many reasons, most of which are unknown to me, play into how she lived her life during that time. Whatever her reasons, though, it wasn't until songs like Memory trilled out of the speakers at full blast that her facade would crumble. A smile would creep across her face and her whole aura changed. She stood straighter and taller and more proud -- of herself and her life -- all while doing something as mundane as dusting and vacuuming the house.

It's crazy to ruminate on those days, it really is. So I won't. But I do have a point, really. Last year, I talked about the times that my mom wore sunglasses. About how she seemed to be able to slip those sunglasses on and find her authentic self. That's really what I feel with Memory, as well. That during the few minutes of loud music, mom threw all caution to the wind, said To hell with what you think of me, and possibly thought to herself, I'm going to be happy and do what I want. For a few minutes, at least, she threw off the shackles that society, responsibility, family, and any other perceived threat had placed upon her and she lived life to the fullest. And if only for a moment, I saw a glimpse of who my mother could be. If she'd just let herself.

I love my mother, I truly do. And this post isn't written to tell her where she went wrong. We all do things in life that we could have done better or differently, myself included. This post is really to remind me of what I need to do every day. What I can do every day, partially because times have changed, for the better. How I can be my authentic self each and every day, in each and every situation, regardless of the trappings of a family, job, and a house. The mother I could be and the mother I am actually have a chance of being one and the same, and I am so grateful for that fact.

I'm also grateful for my mother. No matter what she did or what she does now, no matter how angry and frustrated I've been with her, I've also learned so much from my mom. I've learned how to do things and how not to do things. How to appreciate life for what it is and the power of a strong support system. I've learned how to be a good sister, mother, wife, and friend. Each and every day, when I allow my authentic self to shine through, I think of my mom. And to think of someone often, that person must be pretty special.

Despite the uncanny ability of that song (and others) to resurrect clear, intact, and surprisingly detailed memories, it's often difficult to remember some events. And mom and I? Well let's be honest, we're both getting older. How long will that memory of Memory be with her? With me? At least for now, I still have a glimpse of those moments, when I first recognized that life was beautiful, when I first knew what happiness was. It's a memory I hope lives again, forever.

Memory, all alone in the moonlight.
I can dream of the old days, life was beautiful then.
I remember, the time I knew what happiness was.
Let the memory live again.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.


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