The Passage of Time

I miss her voice the most. Her words swirl around my head all of the time. But I miss her saying them. I miss her touch, too,  but we were never a touchy family. Mom and I hugged with our words. When things didn’t go my way, or when they did, her voice was always there. She was my chicken soup. Every mom should be that.

My sons give me letters on Mother’s Day. They know I love to read and they came upon this letter writing on their own. I think. The youngest’s letter promises to teach me how to sing. I am a good singer, he says. I can teach you. I am a horrible singer. He will have a tough job. The second boy’s letter bemoans his lost youth. He is 14. I should do more, he writes. I should experience more. I cry a little when I read this. And smile, too. He will do much more. My oldest son’s letter is mostly an apology for not writing a letter sooner. I didn’t know we were writing letters, he says. Happy Mother’s Day.

Sometimes my mom’s letters turn up here and there. They meant little then. They mean so much now. They are letters about nothing special. A lost button. A planned visit. Birthday cards and life happenings. I love them all.

I listen to a Podcast on Mother’s Day. It is a simple one, without a big Mother’s Day Message. Children interviewing moms. All sorts of moms and all sorts of kids. All sorts of questions, too. Some are easy.  What is your favorite meal? And some are difficult.  How did you feel when I told you I was gay? The moms’ answers vary. The moms vary, too. Some old, some young. One mom has dementia. She apologizes to her daughter. I’m sorry, she says. I forget, she says. I want to tell her I am sorry, too.

I should do this, I think. Record my voice with my boys. Do I have my mom’s voice anywhere? I will look. I hope I do. I don’t think so.

My oldest son attended the prom a few weeks ago. He looked so handsome and his date, oh my goodness, when did girls become so beautiful? I watch them, with all of the other moms, and take pictures and smile so much that my face hurts. She should be here, I think. She would like this. It is Entertainment Tonight except we know all of the people. I want to tell her that. She would laugh. And would be proud of her grandson. She would smile until her face hurt, too. And we would stay up late talking about it. And I would hear her voice.

The prom-goers walk down a red carpet, with the paparazzi lined on each side. They smile and wave to us. Their parents. Their fans. Their very own paparazzi. They are all beautiful. And grown up. And we, none of us, can believe that from that little boy grew this man. Or this beautiful daughter from that little girl. Remember?, we say to each other. Wow, we say. We clap. We cheer. We talk about kindergarten, and pictures of us strung with ribbon around those little necks. And hands that didn’t want to let go. Weren’t they just in kindergarten?, we ask. Yes, we answer. Yes.

One mom, a friend, an acquaintence really, follows her son right up to the bus. To get another hug, another squeeze. From her baby. Her big, sideburned, man-baby. I smile at that. I love that. Because she can’t help herself. She can’t contain her love for that boy. One more touch. Please. She hugs his date, too. They are all our children.

And then they leave us on that bus. Off to the fun that we’ll hear little about. To dance and laugh and act like the almost-adults that they are. They are growing up. And just as I remember mom watching me, on my first date, at my first job, my wedding, my introduction to momhood, I wish she could see him. I wish she could get one last hug. She would like that. I’m sorry, mom, I whisper to no one. To anyone. You should be here. With me. With your voice.

I send a photograph to my sister. A photograph of my son and his date. His tie matches her dress. He is waving and seems to be saying something. I don’t know what. His date is looking at him.

My sister responds. She does not say he is handsome or she is beautiful. She does not say congratulations or wow didn’t he get big. She speaks with my mom’s voice. Right there in the text. That’s our boy!, my sister says. And I hear mom. And I feel mom. And I know, she is there, she is always there.

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