Three years ago, somewhere near 9am, I was sitting in design class with Bruce. He was floating; it was independent work; my dad called; my mom had died an hour earlier.
Time — . In my family, I’m the one who, in the words of auntie on the phone tonight, “might go inside yourself a little bit” when I think about my mom. I like talking about her, about what it was like the weeks of her being sick, how quick it ended. I don’t, though. Talk. Not often. And less often than that I talk about — it. Grief. The hole that opens up and all the ways it doesn’t feel.
Being 25 is gorgeous. My life as a panorama is all things good. But not having my mother’s approval, disapproval, ideas and inspiration is something that strains wider with time, splits in new places; it doesn’t fade.
I’d like her to tell me that the towels I bought at Walmart are cute. Want her inside my classroom, eyes wide looking at the things I’ve constructed for my kids, at their responses to it, at their work. Want her hoarding baby blankets for the grandkids I might produce in a decade, want her telling me about why she’s voting for her candidate again. I want her to help me with insurance, to know how much is in my bank account, to ask me to pay my share of the phone bill, to mispronounce all my friends names and meet them in the house I’ve lived in for more than two years.
I left school earlier than I have on a Monday since this year has started. My roommates texted that they were “cooking up some pasta and veggies in pesto if you want to come home for dinner!” I was already packed up when I got it, leaving.
After a mild day at school I went running with Erin, and might have convinced her to join myself and two other teachers in a half-marathon come November. Then dinner with just the Bowles house, our house, I think for the first time. It was sweet and delicious and it wasn’t until Erin said, “Dessert?” that I realized.
And when Chuck pulled out the birthday cake ice cream I knew.
Intentionally, these humans I’ve known for just a few months had planned this dinner and this my well-loved dessert that reminded me of my mama in itself. I mentioned that, and there was a quiet acknowledgement of a hard day and truly loving friends.
After thirty minutes of processing with auntie (mama’s closest sister) on the phone, Britt was standing in my doorway: an angel surprise I see so rarely, bearing a gift that made me cry on impact. I have never been that girl– to bust up just at the sight of something, but there it was, at the end of the day. Britt in my arms and tears rolling at Chex Mix, Cracker Jacks, and Hello Kitty fruitsnacks in a bag-turned-card. These people. This place.
I called auntie back to remind myself that this, too, is why I am here. That I love my students and I love my job and I love the people I see daily but I am here to live my life, too, not merely facilitate small children living theirs. This is part of me, this is the spine (or the heart?) of my Delta TFA experience– loving and being loved.
I am going to bed brimming with gratitude that I was raised in a way that allows me to be here, to appreciate this, to keep pushing at life the same way my tiny mother did: perpetually planning, tirelessly working, singing & making light of things, and being enveloped in love.