Several years ago, John called me on the phone on the way home from work, very excited about an idea he had for a book. It stemmed from him thinking about the scene in Forest Gump where the young boy writes a letter to his late mother, and John wondered why he would say if he wrote a letter like that to his mom who passed away when he was 26.
Then it struck him about the different ways people have lost a mom, and what if he could get each kind of person to write a letter? At that time, he worked for a man whose father had been in a Nazi concentration camp. This man had lost most of his family in that camp, and only survived himself because he was one of twins, and the Nazis were interested in twins. What would it be like for that man to think back on those days and his early memories, and write them in a letter to the mom he had lost? What about people like me who lost a parent very young: what would a child write in their letter? What about a person given up for adoption or abandoned or in an orphange? What would they write to the biological mother who gave them up? And for those lucky enough to get a loving home, what about that letter to their real mom?
He’d gather all these letters together, along with his, and publish it in a book titled, Dear Mom….. If it was successful, he’d do another one for people who have lost their dad.
I brought the idea up again last year, saying I thought it was a shame he never did it. The best part is: he didn’t remember ever having the idea. But he loved it.
Now obviously, I have my own reasons for thinking about a letter like that, so I decided to do it. It might be just this one letter, it might be a bunch over time (I created a category for it)….. we’ll see.
By the way, if you’re a book agent or publisher or know someone who is and you love the idea for Dear Mom, give us a holler!
Since I’m writing, let’s assume you can hear me. By now you know that Ralph has cut us out. There’s a bunch of lies about us stealing things, but you know we didn’t do it. We couldn’t. It would never occur to us.
But it means that all your things that were so special and meant a lot to you, or the things that have been in our family for so long, are gone to us now. There’s the money too; obviously, it would help. But I’d give it all up if it brought you back, even for an hour.
I hate the idea that people who have been so evil to us, like Debbie, will now have things that represent you who wasn’t evil at all. It’s not right. And it burns.
But in between the hurt, I think of those different things and the memories. Like, the dining room set. I was about eight years old, remember, when we got it. We had just moved to South Jersey from Middlesex. I don’t know why you and Daddy decided to get a new set. Maybe because we finally had a diningroom big enough for us to have a full set, a big table and chairs and a hutch. The house in Middlesex had the addition for a diningroom, and I don’t even really remember what the tables and chairs looked like. I just remember the “whirlygigger” (the lazy susan) in the middle, and how I loved to spin it, but would go too fast and things would fly off. And watching you and Daddy eat like grownups by twirling your spaghetti on your fork by holding it against a tablespoon; I would try and try, and could never do it. Or the first time you let me put sugar in ice tea and I had about an inch sitting on the bottom of the glass. And the time Artie, Rob, and I played cowboys and Indians outside, and they tied me to a tree and left me there to go inside for dinner. I called and called for help as I watched through the big bay window as Daddy started to fume because I wasn’t there, and then you finally looked up through the window and saw me.
I remember shopping with you and Cathi for the new set, and how excited you were to have a hutch at last. The meals we had in the townhouse like when Daddy brought home a bluefish, face and all, and I refused to eat it. I hated fish anyway, and it was just staring at me.
Or when you woke me up to have a birthday party for Daddy when he came home from working on his night shift, and I managed to stay awake long enough to sing Happy Birthday and see him blow out the candles before stumbling back to bed while you and Cathi stayed up with him.
Then the long winter nights in the mobile home in South Harrison, where we’d have dinner, then you’d help me as I struggled to learn long division. Or the Sunday morning big brunches with the whole family over and all the holidays, and you mistified me with “the wormy tatoes maker” (I still don’t know the real name of that thing). Then you with Cathi sitting there in the mornings with her grown up now, with cups of tea and discussing “grownup” things with her about going to college and getting her own place. Or you making it my job to dust the hutch, and I hated it because there was a certain way to balance Grammy’s china, and it took forever.
Then the condo in West Deptford, and we got the kittens, and how, even when she was small, Saavah could do a straight vertical leap to the top of the hutch, or that first night when they squeezed underneath of it, and we didn’t look there because we didn’t think they’d fit. Or Gerry sitting with Baby Martin in her lap at the table, wrapping her hands around his to hold a knife and fork in his fists, and “teaching” him to bang on the table with them in a chant of “We want to eat! We want to eat!”
How you said it was too big a set for Ralph’s place in Malaga, so I stored some of the chairs in my house in Williamstown, and how happy you were when you had the new house built a few years ago, because you finally had another dining room where you could have your full set. You made homemade candy on it, and dyed Easter eggs on it with another generation of children, and in the past year, you would scour craft places like Michael’s to make centerpieces and place settings. Or Mother’s Day in 2007 when you started talking politics with Cheryl and Art and I thought my head would pop before dinner was over.
It’s where they put the pictures and dolls that we picked up to take for the funeral service.
Funny how a table and hutch can be so much a part of a life.
I’m never going to sit at that table again. I’m trying very hard, Mom, not to let this get to me. Not to mourn things instead of you. But it’s hard.
It’s like remembering you. It’s so hard, but I have a lot of good memories. Of you and the whirlgigger and baby Martin at the table and all the different dogs who have sat underneath of it. Of kittens and sitting there with family as the cast iron griddle cooked yet another brunch or people dashed around making another holiday dinner.
And that January night, after Daddy died, when everyone who had stayed over for the funeral went home, and you and I sat at our first dinner at that table that was just the two of us. You said, “It’s just you and me now.” You told me years later you were afraid I’d be scared. But I wasn’t. I felt really safe with you there, and in an odd way, glad that the chaos was over and now it was you and me.