After everyone left town following my mother’s funeral, one of the things left behind was a mix cd that held all of her favorite songs. It's maybe the truest part of her that I have left, since she never wrote anything or found a way to say, "this is who I was." It's a different kind of hurt, as I've grown older, to lose a person---not just the figure of my mother. I wish I knew how she was funny or how she was sad; if there were things she lost that she never stopped missing. Mother’s day comes every year when the lilacs are blooming. They were her favorite spring flower. My childhood friends would bring her bunches of them on the days my mother drove us to school. Wrapped in wet paper towels, the lilac's woody stems would be nestled into the cup holder. She planted a lilac tree out in our back garden too, in the corner, at the meeting of the fence lines. In May, the Oregon rain would cling to the clusters of clover shaped flowers. The leaves folding, the branches bent under the wealth of it.
The second song on her cd is "Our House" by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. "I'll light the fire," it begins, "you put the flowers in the vase, that you bought yesterday." Most of the verses are about simple blessings like that, about rest and light and illuminated windows. But, it's the last line that gets me every time: "life use to be so hard / now everything is easy because of you."
Those words help me understand the life that I remember with her and the home my parents made together. They both wanted to build a place better than the one they'd known. So, they painted the walls white and covered them with wainscoting. No unkind words were ever spoken. She turned on the table lamps to keep out the dark and set lilacs on the dining room table. And on the first warm day of Spring, she would open the French doors, put on her reeboks and windex the windows. From the living room, she'd play that song onto the patio. Even the neighbors could hear it coming from our house.