I grew up in a brick house on Cherry Street. I was probably about the age of five or six, when I think back on it now. The yard wasn’t large and it sat on a small hill up from the sidewalk. It sits right in the middle of a municipality, so it makes sense that the yard is as small as it is.
It felt a lot bigger as a child. My sister and I had a swing set outside where I remember pumping my feet so high I was so sure I could fly if only I had the guts to jump from the seat. I remember digging in the dirt with a stick and my Mom telling me the story of how my Aunt tricked her into taking a bite of a huge worm because she told her it was a hotdog (Not sure if that’s true or not, but now every time I see a worm I envision a great big worm sitting atop a hotdog bun).
The house still sits in the same spot looking exactly as it did twenty years ago, and my childhood best friend still occupies the house across the street. It almost seems as if time hasn’t moved on, even though I have. The life that I knew within those four walls is much different than the life I know now. Occasionally I will drive down that block slowly, my attempt at grasping onto something that has been long since gone. I have come to realize that this was the last place I truly had a sense of innocence.
The last happy memories I cherish of my mother were had in that home. I remember my sister and I shared a bunk bed and our room was connected with our parents, only separated by door beads that made a beautiful song when walked through. My mother was always so good at decorating the home. Her bedroom had a beautiful Native American painting on the wall and a canopy that hung over their bed. We would swing on the tall poles of the canopy, chatting away, while watching A Bug’s Life.
I remember having daddy-daughter donut day at school with my stepdad (my younger sister’s father). My Mom and Rick came to my elementary school where we played hula hoop, ate donuts, and drank chocolate milk. I remember getting off the bus, running up that big hill to the house, and then cuddling up on the couch with my Mom while we watched Oprah. When I lost a tooth, I remember the joy of waking up with a dollar bill under my pillow.
We had TV dinner trays and we sat on the floor eating takeout every Wednesday night while watching “Fear Factor.” We would order spaghetti and garlic bread from the local restaurant La Gondola, or fried chicken meals from KFC. La Gondola to this day still has the best garlic bread.
I remember Christmas time with my Mom. I remember decorating the tree and not being able to sleep on Christmas Eve because the anticipation to open gifts had me wired to the core. She lit the spirit of the holidays in me from a young age, that I do know. The holidays were especially hard on me in my teen years as I mourned the memories of the mother that was the provider of all of these wonderful memories. And it wasn’t like she was gone. She was just away, living a life that I knew nothing about. One year my aunt and uncle surprised my sister and I with letting our mother come visit for Christmas. This was probably the first Christmas after we were taken from our Mom by DCFS. We had just moved in with our aunt, uncle, and our five cousins, so we had been in the process of adjusting to a new home, new school, and new cohabitants. My aunt came to my sister and me and said, “What is this mess in here?” Confused, we followed my aunt to the front corridor of the house where our mom popped out from around the corner. We ran into her arms and hugged her tight.
It is still hard to not get caught in the pain of missing her during this time of year. Although we shared less than seven Christmases together, a part of me still feels like she has been here. Right now she is sitting in prison and I have not talked to her in months. I try not to spend my time wondering how Christmas is when you are locked up in a state prison for seven years. My aunt and uncle gave us seven kids everything and more for Christmas. As an adult, I now wonder how the hell they ever pulled off buying all seven of us kids new bikes one year. Our blended family of nine committed to our annual holiday traditions, and it is something that each of us have since integrated into our own family’s celebrations. We held hands surrounding our tree of choice and sang “O Christmas Tree” before cutting it down. We made candy with Grandma and put out shoes for Santa instead of stockings. My sister and I experienced no lack of holiday spirit and cheer even though we weren’t spending it with the person that brought us into the world.
I do not spend a lot of time living in the past or dwelling on what is not. But sometimes, I enjoy jumping back into the world where life felt more simple. More innocent. A time of youth.
A time where the girl in the brick house felt no absence of her mother. A time where the snuggles on the couch were never going to end. A time where my essence was not based in the presence of what I am missing and continuously longing for.
I remember the good days. This Christmas and always, I miss you, Mom.