The last few weeks I’ve found myself fantasizing about what it would be like to have my mom around. I doubt this is healthy, but it goes like this: I envision her showing up and going to work. She would get my kitchen really clean—sparkling, lemon-fresh clean. She would brush my daughter’s hair, patiently untangling it. She would spoil her only granddaughter with a special Valentine’s Day dress (something that I wouldn’t have the energy or time to consider buying). Even though I would say to her, mom you shouldn’t have, she would reply, That is what grandmothers are for.
She would treat me to lunch, just the two of us. She would spoil me by footing the bill for a pretty new dress or shirt, just because. I would say, you don’t need to do this. And she would reply, I know, but I want to. And she would mean it.
Lovely as this dream is, it is not reality.
I’ve been lonely for family lately. In addition to my mom being gone, the rest of my alive-and-well-family feels really far away. There is a literal distance of over 1,000 miles. Sometimes that is not a big deal. We Facetime, we talk, and we see each other pretty frequently despite the distance. But it doesn’t replace having grandma down the road. Our far-away family can’t swoop in to babysit if an unexpected emergency comes up.
We know that we need a nearby, substitute family. We are working hard to build our village. Our list of sitters is slowly growing and we are forcing ourselves to forge connections with as many families and friends in our neighborhood as we can.
I see this community as providing patches to a well-loved quilt that currently has some holes in it.
Even though I might not like the fact that big, important pieces are missing from my quilt, it doesn’t mean I can’t try to patch it up, to blend old with new.
To be certain, there is no patch or series of patches that will repair the empty space that was held by my mother. That is not possible. I see the new patches to the old quilt as being like those in a crazy quilt. You know, those folk-art type quilts that are sewn together with irregular shapes and sizes and using unique patterns and materials. (Hey, the name fits too. All families are a little crazy, right?!)
I’ve always liked the eclectic look of crazy quilts. There is beauty in its imperfection.
Which is not to say that I always fully embrace the new. Fantasies about my mom come from a place of resentment. For the fact that there are holes in the fabric of my family. For the fact that clinging to my old quilt just doesn’t work anymore.
The problem is that fantasies never accurately reflect what was or what could have been.
Let’s be honest: If my mom were alive and well, reality would look a little different than the fantasy I described. For one thing, I’d likely be frantically cleaning before she arrived to my house (in order to save face, of course). And while yes, my mom would comb my daughter’s hair, she would likely also raise my ire by asking, “Don’t you ever comb this rat’s nest?!”
While it is very likely we would have lunch just the two of us, it’s also likely that when she would lean over to pass me the bread she would also tuck my hair behind my ear, commenting for the fifteenth-thousandth time that I should “Just pull my hair back so everyone can see my eyes!”
Imagining this revised scene makes me laugh and helps to slay some of the victim-hood.
It reminds me that there is no perfect quilt. Well-loved quilts always have a few frays.
Still, I miss her. Flaws and all.
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