Mom would have been 68 today. To celebrate, I took her blueberry picking.
We had a little birthday party at the berry patch, me and mom.
I wonder what the other pickers thought of my talking to the ghost of my mother. There were families there, mothers with small children, a few teenagers, a few people alone, just like me. I bet some of them were talking to ghosts as well.
But I bet they weren’t having a birthday party.
I caught her up on what’s happening in our lives. I told her how tall Hyla is (not yet the seven feet that Mom predicted, but closing in). I told her we finally painted the downstairs bathroom. That the yellow rose bush I planted for her died. How greedy the goats are for ‘Nilla wafers. I told her about the summer of drama camps, the trip to Maine, the plans for visiting family in Michigan and Toronto.
She was happy about the Toronto trip and, when I told her we might go to the CNE, she said she wished she could come. I said she’d be there, too.
When I told her how much fudge and how many lobsters we ate in Maine, she smiled that crinkly-blue-eyed smile of hers. The blue she inherited from her father, Harry. The blue she passed on to her daughters.
She loves lobsters. And, it turns out, chocolate fudge.
Not always, though. She used to shun chocolate. When we’d go for ice cream as a family, the only flavor she thought worth getting was vanilla. We, with chocolate smudges circling our mouths, were utterly confused by her choice. How could she not like chocolate?
Later, she came to appreciate chocolate more. When I grew up, I learned to understand why she loved vanilla best.
I told her about the bar mitzvah we went to last weekend, how the prayers and the songs and the rituals conjured up my ghosts: mom, grandma, grandpa. We laughed about those old bar/bat mitzvahs and weddings, with the horrible gowns and hair-dos, the huge rented halls, the mediocre bands, the rubber-chicken dinners, the dancing late into the night.
I kidded her about her own funny dance, hands in loose fists at chest-level, thumbs out, arms jerking to each side, one after the other, doing some sort of hitch-hiker-inspired move. She obliged me by doing the dance right there in the blueberry patch.
I laughed, blushed. Mom, stop! It’s so embarrassing!
I got a bit wistful. I told her there were so many things I wanted Hyla to know about her.
Well, then, tell her.
So I will.
I’ll tell her about your smile.
Your forgetfulness (I didn’t understand then; I do now).
Your made-up words.
Your white lies to make others feel happy and included (I didn’t understand then; I do now).
The kindnesses you do for everyone around you.
The way you’re really interested in the answer when you ask someone a question.
Your less-than-successful cooking attempts (including “surprise-hamburgers”, “baked spaghetti”, and the time you washed that really bad mango-peach sauce off the chicken).
That you can’t whistle, or snap your fingers.
I’ll tell her about the things you love.
Your Florida home.
Your collection of kaleidoscopes.
All animals, but, in particular, horses, dogs, giraffes, and, later in life, the tropical birds and lizards that visited your back porch.
Everything about Mexico.
Central American art.
Traveling the world with Dad.
Reading (especially novels by Canadian authors).
Drinking coffee (gallons of it, especially when you worked from home).
Reunions with family in Toronto. Huge orders of Chinese food eaten buffet-style in the house at 29 Regina. Kids hiding under the dining room table. Grownups wandering the rooms with paper plates in hand, telling the same old stories, some that made us laugh, some that made us cringe.
I’ll tell her how about the music you love.
The Everly Brothers.
New country music (Mom, I don’t understand that one, but I totally forgive you).
I’ll tell her about how much you love your granddaughter, your son-in-law, your brothers, your cousins, your grand-dogs, your grand-cats (and, had you known them in person, your grand-goats).
I’ll tell her (again) how you never wanted a birthday cake on your birthday. Only blueberry pie. Without the ice cream.
Holly holy love
Take the lonely child
And the seed
Let it be filled with tomorrow
Sing a song
Sing a song of songs
Sing it out
Sing it strong
Call the sun in the dead of the night
And the sun’s gonna rise in the sky
Touch a man who can’t walk upright
And that lame man, he’s gonna fly
And I fly, yeah
And I fly