today would have been my mother’s birthday

Irene Shirley died March 18, 2007. Today would be her birthday — indeed, it is her birthday still, at least to her three daughters. We have already texted one another, remembering. I lit a candle and some incense.

I found myself going through scrapbooks of photos. Granted, most of them were me as a child or young adult but, hey, just who took most of the photos, saved them, then gave them to me? Mom. Since I was the first born, I have tons of pictures, even a baby book!

I found the pictures Mom gave me after our trip to the San Francisco Bay area after her husband (my step father) died. So glad we did that! We traveled as two adults. She had never flown before so our roles changed slightly; she had to accept me as an adult as I booked our flights, made reservations, and served as self-appointed tour guide.

Was she happy? I mean, throughout her life? Some of the time, I’m sure. Will this be the year I learn, truly learn, that I am not her confidant, I am responsible only for my own happiness? I believe Mom was sad much of her life. My opinion is that she chose poorly regarding husbands. Three of them (one much later, when I was an adult). But that’s not my business now. My biological father and mother’s divorce when I was three became a shadow theme of my life. Thank god/dess for Landmark Education! This organizations’s seminars helped me see some patterns that had remained hidden for decades. I had taken her side. I believed relationships didn’t last, in fact, they were painful and not worth it. I might have been to blame; after, all, I was the oldest — shouldn’t I have known better, whatever was wrong in our family? I knew her story about dreaming of going to art school in Chicago but instead attending Miami University to become an elementary school teacher like her adopted mother Katie. She became pregnant with me at 20 and the rest is 1950’s “Leave it to Beaver” facade, the dysfunction lying just below the surface.

I’ve been working on a memoir. Surely mom will be in the acknowledgments. I loved her. I still do, maybe more than ever. There’ve been a few times when I’m in the yard among flowers that I almost hear her voice, feel her contentment. Lately the wind chimes I gave her (which came back to me after her passing) have been especially noisy out on the deck.

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4 responses to “today would have been my mother’s birthday

  1. This is so touching. A lovely piece

    And for me some insight into vals feelings about my divorce When she was three perhaps if parents knew how long the shadow lasts they would try harder

  2. Hi,

    Thanks for your comment on my site, though its quite late for me to reply! Thanks for the suggestion of your online writing class. Would like to know more about it….

    Your article is gr8 and very emotional…God bless …

    Regards,

    Nidhi

  3. Rashma N. Kalsie

    This was a moving piece and I found myself thinking of my mother and all the things that she has done for us, me and the other two siblings. How she has stood by us, supported without wanting a word of gratitude in return. She parted with all her jewellery to make our trousseau and dowry. Thanks for reminding me, because in my own pursuit of ambition I forget all those who matter.

  4. Margaret da Costa

    Oh Phebe … this took me back to my childhood memories. My mother passed away when I was 9 and by then she had been through two marriages and had given birth to 6 children. She was an amazingly brave person and I feel proud when her brother, my uncle tell me that I remind him so much of her. Thank you!

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