As part of Dare, Dream, Do's birthday month, I invited people who had contributed to the book to write a celebratory post. Some of you may recall Jean's prior piece The Tasty Cheapskate in which she shares what happened when she, to her surprise, she discovered she enjoys cooking. Here's a belated Mother's Day piece which I found quite lovely.
Last September my mother died.
As my birthday and Mother’s Day rolled out in quick succession, I expected to miss her desperately. My birthday came with cake and friends. Mother’s Day followed with an almost euphoric effusion of love and treats and awareness from my kids. It’s not that I forgot about her—she came to me here or there in a swish of thought. But that was all.
Strangely—or so it seemed to me—it was afterwards as life settled back into normal, that the feeling of her loss began to edge into me. I began a third draft of my first young adult novel. I worked on it from approximately 8:00-11:00 each night—essentially in most of the free hours of my life. It was in that small sacrifice for something that I didn’t know would ever pay off—at least not in that tangible way that I wanted it too—that I began to feel her absence. It was in wanting to bounce paragraphs off of her, ask about this or that ending to chapter three. But it was more than that. It was in wanting to feel her believe in me the way I’d always been able to feel her believing in me. The more crossed-out-re-added-double-crossed-out my third draft became, the more I felt the hole that should have held my mother.
Oddly, I did not feel her loss as much in my mothering life—the life that consumed most of the other hours of my life. By which I mean that I did not find myself needing her validation there. Maybe this was because my mother had already given me a strong hope and a solid taste of the joy and satisfaction mothering would return to me if joy and satisfaction were given to it. Maybe it was because I had acknowledged long ago that my efforts in mothering might not bear all the fruits I expected them to (or in the exact season or way I expected them to).
Yet to extend those feelings of confidence and acceptance to a less exalted pursuit—to a book written for the mere entertainment of others—that was something in which I felt less sure. Perhaps my time would be better spent researching ways to enrich my family life. Or extend and improve my physical life through more sleep and better exercise. Perhaps at the very least I should be spending my evening hours cruising around Pinterest so that we could have something planned for dinner the next night
Selfishly, I wanted to have my mother here to tell me that the place I was putting my extra drops of energy was okay—good even. I wanted her here to say that if I wanted to spend my midnight hours wandering around in a world of werewolves, talking dogs, and dilapidated human towns, that those hours would pay off too; and perhaps in ways I couldn’t yet see. I wanted to hear her say, “This thing you’re doing in your extra time; it has value; it has potential. It’s worth giving pieces of yourself.”
And then, one night after finishing a chapter that had given me more grief than any of the others, I fell into bed exhausted, but satisfied—light. My mother could have stood there, but she didn’t need to because I knew then what I’m almost sure she would have had me know—that even if my book never struck gold, it would be valuable, my time spent on it important—for the sweet expansion it granted.
When do you feel the loss of your mother?
Jean Knight Pace holds a BA in music and an MFA in creative writing from Colorado State University. She has worked as a writer, editor, and aide to those with disabilities. She writes a blog called The Tasty Cheapskate, a blog for cooks and cooks-to-be, even (and perhaps especially) those with time and money constraints. She lives with her husband and four children in southern Indiana.