It’s been a hundred years since I’ve posted here. Since I decided my “new way to post” I’ve whipped up a pretty amazing website which is the way to see all of my tattoo work and find all that kind of information. I’ve even created a tattoo page on Facebook which is the best way to keep up with all of my tattooing activities on the day to day. This blog has collected some cobwebs yet again but it resurfaces as I try to find the best platform for the stuff I need to say at the moment, so dear bloggers – it’s gonna get personal again.
Every year I dread Mother’s Day. Because I’m never sure what it’s going to bring for me. I’ve always been fair to myself and given myself the license to do what I need to do when it comes to grieving for my parents. If you’ve ever lost a parent you know you never truly “get over it”. The process simply evolves over time. It’s an organic, living, breathing thing just as we are. Milestones come and go. Moments of need arise and subside. Moments of heartache and yearning for what could have been bubble up then simmer down.
My life is truly shaped by that one monumental event. I was ten years old and it was the summer of 1986. She died from pancreatic cancer and it happened quickly. I was sheltered from much of the truth because I’m sure my father didn’t think I could comprehend what was happening. I just knew she was very, very sick. And one day she didn’t come home. I recall the moment my father told me she was gone. I don’t recall crying though. I just understood. I don’t think I even cried at her funeral.
Surely over the years I’ve made up for that and it’s because I’ve come to understand that about myself. I don’t cry on cue. I cry when it’s genuine and when I need to. Some people perceive it as “holding it in”. I felt the eyes on me at her funeral, the “she’s not upset? why isn’t she in pieces??” I was a little girl who grew up really fast in those moments. Because I remember looking at everyone and thinking to myself “I don’t care what people think. She was MY mother. I don’t have to explain myself.” Grief is not a performance for the public. It’s deep and personal and private. Maybe I got that attitude from her, but the heartbreak in that sentiment is that I’ll never really know.
My father raised me after that with a lot of help from my Aunts. Some were in our family by marriage (she was an only child like myself). But most of these ladies were her close friends and through that was the greatest lesson for me. I was shown that your true family is the family you chose. And that you leave your legacy behind through those relationships because more often than not – only your true friends know the REAL you. I was blessed to be around these women growing up, all strong independent fiery ladies who I believe were a reflection of her as well. You are who you hang with after all. I grew up listening to stories and anecdotes….. things she did, things she said, antics she pulled, the ways she was. I soaked it all in as much as I could. Eventually as I matured, they even told me I sometimes sounded like her, something about the inflection in my voice that was unique like hers. More moments of tiny heartbreak. I wish I could even remember what she sounded like.
So many of my life choices have been shaped by losing her and by learning about who she was. She marched to her own beat. She lived a very unconventional lifestyle. She and my father were married but separated not too long after. They had various periods of getting back together, splitting up again, etc. And somewhere in that back and forth they conceived me. She was always told she couldn’t get pregnant and when she did she wanted to keep it. A pretty courageous decision for a single woman in her early 40’s in the 1970’s. However, their unique lifestyle choices did not prevent them from being good parents. I lived with my mom in Queens and spent weekends with my father in the city. He was consistent in his visits and time with me and believed my day to day place was with her. They came together for me and I was never exposed to whatever squabbles they might have had. They didn’t even get legally divorced until I was 6 years old. It seemed so normal to me I thought every kid lived this way.
The legacy of their choices absolutely impressed upon me that I should always chose what I feel is best for me. I was never told to care what the rest of the world thought and that no one else could make the correct decisions for ME but myself. And so when Mother’s Day comes around I let it be what it needs to be that particular year. Some years I feel like being social and being around my Aunts or other people’s mothers. Some years I can’t bear to walk around and see everyone at brunch with their moms because I miss her so much.
Other years I just need to just be unapologetically alone and listen to Bessie Smith records while I look at her pictures and remember her. While I wish her memory hasn’t been reduced to motionless two dimensional photos, I was recently gifted with a digitized video from 1979 that my Uncle filmed of a family dinner. My mind was completely blown because I got to see her move, hear her speak… and most heartbreakingly… she speaks of me and how proud she is of me. I’m so grateful to have this treasure. I thought I’d never hear or see her again.