Last Sunday was Mother’s Day. It was bittersweet for a lot of us who enjoyed spending time with family and friends, but missed our moms who are no longer with us. I, personally, had a wonderful weekend surrounded by loved ones and, although I miss my mom very much, I felt her around me all day.
While I was able to spend a lot of time with her, I regret not asking more questions that only she could’ve answered about my early life. It started me thinking about some of the things I only have spotty recollections of and wished that I had asked her about. If only she would’ve written her memoirs or taken notes of our life story together.
I headed into the garage where several boxes of hers remained, unopened. I knew there were pictures and other things in there that I’d eventually get to go through, but days had turned into weeks, then months and then years. I remember packing up a box and Grandpa marking it “Norma’s pictures” — a box I had hastily gone through a few times, looking for a specific picture or two. I found a list of all of our relatives and ancestors written in her beautiful handwriting on a piece of paper! I hit the jackpot in a sense, and, just like the ads on television about finding your heritage, there it was in black and white, going back several generations on both her side and my dad’s. I still had questions, but this was something tangible, giving me a very warm feeling that, again, she’d reached out to me in her own way on this special day.
As I dug further, I found an autograph book from my junior high school graduation, filled with silly poems and well wishes from my classmates, teachers and, yes, mom wrote in it, too. In a small box sat my tassel and diploma from high school and a medal for swimming (even though I came in last in the big summer race at the beach down the block from our house on Long Island).
This little treasure chest brought back those time-buried memories and helped fill in some of the blank spots of my recollections. There were childhood projects, like a story I wrote about my Washington trip in eighth grade, an attempt at a mosaic trivet made of broken tiles in the shapes of butterflies, numerous birthday cards made by my hand and hundreds of pictures. I also found a box marked “movie pictures” containing 16mm film that I will some day bring to someone who can put them on a drive for me to watch. My word, that sweet lady kept everything!
To me she was Mom, but as I continued to look, I found many pictures and memorabilia from her life before me. I got to renew my already special relationship with her, but from a totally different perspective. The young girl, the teenager, the engaged 18-year-old, and the best part: her wedding album. I had seen it with her before, but going through it now, I got to look at many relatives I hadn’t seen in decades. Although they are all gone now, I enjoyed visiting with them once again as they danced and enjoyed a glorious wedding day for my mom and dad.
Mom did indeed keep everything. Whenever the grandchildren or great-grandchildren made an ornament, drew a picture or wrote a card, she kept it. There was every school picture they took and every letter they wrote to her.
Young moms today have what I call “forever pictures” on the internet and on something called “the cloud.” Digital pictures are forever and, although you may not be able to put those in a box, perhaps writing a diary or your own memoirs for your daughters and sons will avoid any mysteries for them in the future.
I am so grateful for those boxes of hers and will finally start going through the rest. I’m ready. She truly loved and was loved. So happy Mother’s Day, Mom, and to all the moms out there who love and are loved.
Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with senior care and advocacy groups. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.