We are going out to dinner, like we've done every year for the last 20 years for her birthday. When she was alive, I let her pick the restaurants. Usually she picked Chinese, since Dad doesn't like it and it's a treat for her.
Little off topic, I'm not sure when I realized I was in love with Mike. One of the things that stood out to me though was that he was the first person I ever went out with who noticed I never ate all of my meal, and would always get it boxed up to go.He was also the only person who ever noticed I always gave the boxed up leftovers to my mom. So he started calling my mom and asking her if she wanted us to pick up anything for her while we were out. If you ask me what the best gift I've ever gotten in my life was, I think that was it. That consideration and attention to detail. He made it casual. Like "You're watching the kids, so can we do this for you?" and she didn't feel like an imposition to ask for something she wanted. He didn't make a big deal of it with me either, it was like he hadn't even noticed. Except, that he always ordered something to go for her.
See.. Mom didn't go out often. Sometimes, that birthday dinner was her only dinner in a nice restaurant all year. She loved the food from nice places though, so bringing her leftovers was something I did from high school on. I'd cut my entree in half, and eat half, and bring her the other half.
When we went to Seattle, she asked me to sit and have a cup of coffee at a nice hotel and watch the people go by for her. That was one of her favorite things to do when she went on business trips or vacations anywhere. The grand old hotels preferably. Have coffee and dessert, and watch the people go by.
I keep trying to find the words to describe her. My mom was a paradox, she was crazy, and fae, and at times utterly grounded and petty, and at other times, she was pure magic. She wasn't perfect. She made mistakes on a grand scale. But when things were good, her happiness was contagious. She loved her family. She was the glue that held us together, because all of us tend to be overly private and a bit aloof. She wasn't though, and for her, family always came first.
More then my existence, I owe a lot of my philosophy to her, my art to her, my love to her. No matter how awful things got when I was kid.. and they got pretty awful.. I never had a moment's doubt I was loved and wanted. I've learned since that unfortunately, not all people have unconditional love like that, and it's hard to learn to love unconditionally unless you've been loved unconditionally.
From my mother I learned..
That with pink shoes, you could be invisible.
That effective people aren't universally liked. (if you are making a difference, some people will hate you.)
That you could be liked by a lot of people, or loved by a few. Likable people aren't always or even usually the ones who generate strong emotional responses.
That it's hardly ever the things you did do that you regret later. It's the things you didn't.
That love more then blood makes family.
That everyone has the right to their opinion, but a disagreement over ideas should stay over ideas and not devolve to personal attacks, and that it's okay to walk away even from someone you love rather then letting a disagreement turn personal. "You have the right to your opinion, I have the right to walk away."
That string will not float like a spoon in some illusions. (The infamous Magic String Trick)
That time is irreplaceable. Things are not. Money is not. But time spent is gone, so spend it well.
That people are like gears, we create friction interacting. Good manners are the oil that keeps the machinery of civilization from breaking down, and that they are MORE important with the people you hold nearest and dearest then with strangers. Always let the people you love know you appreciate them. At times, be specific so they know they are irreplaceable and precious to you.
Not to believe everything you read, but to read lots, and get ideas and viewpoints from everything and everyone.
To share your blessings. It would be nice to have a nice car, a nice house and all that, but enough is enough. If you have enough, then you should be willing to share with people who don't have quite enough. Share what you have. If you have time or a skill, share that, if you have money, share that. Essentially, pay for your place in the world by making your part of it a bit friendlier. If enough people do that, the world will become a better place. Activism starts in your personal life.
I learned to cook from her.
How to sew.
How to make do, do without, make it yourself, or find it used. That things didn't have to be shiny and new to have value, they didn't need a name brand. Be your own brand.
To not be afraid of failing when learning something new. Those lessons are just that, lessons. The process and time spent is worthwhile. Nothing learned is ever wasted, even if it goes unused. An active mind is a ready mind.
Labels are limiting.
Every family has their own language. Ours is a bit strange, but it's fun. We play with words and make them up as we go, but it's part of the bond between us, a part of our inner landscape that overlaps.
Thank you Mom. For being yourself. For all your flaws, and all your strengths, and for being uniquely you. I'm lucky to have had you as long as I did. I miss you.