I have few childhood memories. Peonies are one of them. We had a whole line of them down our backyard along the fence. The backyard was immense when I was a child. It took forever to get from one side to the other. I loved to walk along that long row of Peonies and smell each one. Rub the petals between my fingers, silky and soft.  Marvel at the colors. We had white ones and pink ones and really dark magenta ones and it fascinated me how different and rich each color was. How the centers were lighter than the outside edges. How when they were curled into tight balls before they bloomed, ants would roam their surface. It creeped me out and fascinated me. You always had to be careful to lightly shake them before bringing them inside to make sure you got all the ants off first. Peonies remind me of my mom. They reminded her of her mom. Maybe that’s what made her happy:sad about Peonies.

I  have a red mirrored globe in my yard. I used to have a blue one. I used to have a green one. They don’t last too many years, because they are fragile. The first time I had one my husband thought it was weird. Who has one of those in their yard anymore?  My grandmother had one in her backyard. She died when I was three, but I remember being in that backyard for a family gathering. There was a big shady tree and a little kiddie pool. It was very hot and the adults laughed a lot. They lived just a few  houses from the train tracks and the trains scared me. Driving down the alley to their house past those tracks was terrifying. It always felt like our car was going to tip over and fall down the hill to the tracks. It was probably 8 feet but it felt like hundreds of feet. Our car was a black bug with red vinyl interior that smelled like vinyl interior smelled in 1973.  It smelled like hot dust. I didn’t understand why our car was a bug. I remember staring into the red mirrored globe in grandmas yard. Or maybe it was blue. Or maybe it was green. I ate salad with marshmallows and grapes. The world made no sense. But my mother was happy.

The neighbor down the street has a giant lilac bush. She tells us  we can break some off, take them home. My mother loves lilacs.  I bring some home. My mother tells me I shouldn’t pick other peoples flowers. I already know this. I remember the spanking over the tulips. I have to take them back. I have to apologize for taking the flowers. I have to learn my lesson. I take the flowers back. I apologize. I take my spanking. My mother is not happy.

I cut my Dads grass. I water his flowers. I water my Moms flowers. He cut down the lilac bush. And the honeysuckle. It was sad for me. It was something else for him.

I see her lilies, both star and daisy. The Bleeding Hearts she kept getting for Mother’s day. They look like hanging sad hearts of disappointment.

The new flowers she planted after she got sick. Surprises and reminders that pop up throughout the season. Like she’s saying hello. I’m here.

She loved her yard. And she loved her flowers. In a corner are the Peonies.

I have Peonies in my yard. They make me happy:sad.

I hope my children never plant Peonies.


The carpet is blue.

This is my sisters room. The carpet is blue.

I picked the room closest to the stairs, with access to the attic. But I’m jealous of her two closets and copious sunshine. I don’t want to want my room and her room too. But I do.

I scale the back of the house. I find my footholds. Balance on the handrail of the back steps. I stretch upon its highest point, one foot on the back door,  while I curl my fingertips around the airing porch rim.  I pull myself up from a dead weight, over the railing, through my sisters window. Startling her, again. I clamor over her, onto the carpet.

My sisters carpet is blue.

“moms in the shower, hurry”

I creep down the hall. Slink under my covers. Cover my mouth with a pillow to hide my alcohol breath. Hear the shower turn off. My mother is pissed, asking why I’m not home yet. My sister covering for me again. “She is home, shes in bed”. I can feel my mothers anger. She does not open my door.

I’m sitting on the floor, winding the phone cord around my wrist. Consider winding it around my neck. In my flannel shirt and ivory veil. We argue into the phone. “can we not fight on our wedding day please?” My appeal. We slam down our phones. I cry. Trying not to ruin my mascara. Watching my tears drip.

My sisters carpet is blue.

My parents now use this back bedroom. It’s been vacated by my sister for two decades. The carpet has been pulled up and the hardwood floor is oak.

One closet holds the computer. One closet holds my mothers chair. And books.

My mother lies in bed, with her morphine drip. We are sorting the pictures for her funeral. I’m in charge of making the video. She’s picking out her favorites. We laugh. We pretend we have said all we need to say. I keep trying to force the words out. “mom i’m sorry”. They don’t come. I keep waiting for her to force out the words “Heath, I’m sorry”.

They don’t come.

We know it’s close to the end. Soon she will need to go to hospice. We will know when it’s time. She will become less responsive. She won’t be able to function through the morphine haze.

It’s time to go home. I get her a water before I go. I put the pictures in piles. I don’t know this is the last conversation we will have.

I only notice as i leave. My mothers toes are blue.


IMG_5754My main goal in mothering, was to try to not be my mother.

I’m constantly measuring my aptitude as a mother against the yardstick of disfunction. My goal of all time spent with my kids is to have them leave feeling loved and liked and valued. Sometimes I think I spend so much time making sure they are ok, that I am ok, that I forget to simply enjoy them. That’s something I’ve been working on the last few years. Just enjoying them.

I hate Mothers day. And I hate that I hate Mothers day. My mom isn’t here anymore to ruin this day for me. But the scars of this day haven’t faded yet.

The last Mothers day Mom was alive, I had offered to buy her annuals and plant them for her. She was feeling the effects of Chemo and often didn’t feel well. Since my love language is doing, this is what came to me. This isn’t HER love language, so I know up front this isn’t going to suffice. But thats what I had in me. When I called a few days prior I was told in her curt, clipped way, she had already bought her annuals. Her tone clearly said she was disappointed in my mother’s day offering already, because it was too close to the holiday. I had waited too long. Strike one.  So I offered to come plant them. FINE.

I spent Mothers day with my kids. Because I am a mother. And around 4 I took my youngest with me to go over to plant her flowers.

It is obvious immediately I have gravely fucked up her day. again. as I have every Mothers day since my birth most likely. Words are exchanged. Her passive aggressive barbs cut, but feel familiar. My son watches. I don’t remember what was said. I just remember standing in the front yard. Digging little holes for her fucking flowers with tears streaming down my face while my 13 year old looks at me with such pity and softness. “mom. are you ok?” “yes, honey. i am ok.”

But I am not ok. My mom was a shitty mom. And most of the time I don’t feel like my mom liked me very much. And every time part of her comes out in me, I want to grab my kids and tell them “i like you. i love you. im sorry i dont know how to do this better”

And I feel guilty.  Like I need to give her grace and forgiveness because she too was just a person trying to find her way. And I feel like I need to absolve her because she is gone.

I had a lovely day with my kids. They made/brought me cards. Jo and Chase made a cake. Harrison remembered that I needed a new screwdriver bit set for my drill. Taylor set the stage by being the role model big sister for years and years and brought them all over to me.

I made food, (they offered, but i really do enjoy feeding my family). We took a nice long walk through the park. We looked at all the pretty flowers which I have loved doing with them, at that park, since they were little. my boys played like little boys in the trees. I watched my son be sweet with his wife. Taylor got to love on her doggie. My boys played guitar together. And i got to just soak in and marvel at these beautiful amazing creatures. And later my daughter sent me a text and said ‘are you ok? you seemed quiet’. To which i replied, ‘I was just content and happy’. Which is true. But then it made me cry. Because that girl can read me like a book. And she reached out to me. To make sure i was ok. In a way i could never bring myself to do with mom. Even that last year as we watched her slowly fade away. I could never bridge the gap.

All I want for Mothers day, is for my kids to wake up in the morning and not have a sick spot in their stomach. They can call. Or visit. Or skype. Or whatever fits in their life and I will be happy. And I will never make them feel that their effort or offering isn’t enough. They don’t OWE me anything. They didn’t pick me. They just got born into this crazy genetic pool and they will do the best they can with the chromosome soup and family history they got with it.

And I will continue to do the best I can do pass on the good parts of our legacy. And keep trying to dim the lights on the darker stuff.