Monday, February 14, 2011
My one and only Valentine
Every one who knows me, and every one who has read this blog knows about my mom. That she was a singer and was awesome is clear. It's also no secret that she is no longer with us. She was and will remain my only Valentine.
My mother, Michelle, only had to tell me once. It really doesn't matter what it was that she told me. Nor did it matter how young I was or how over my head what she was talking about was. It was only after I had gotten older that I realized how profound her words were to me. I wanted to please my momma. And when I see her in me, even in those traits that can be obnoxious, I beam with pride. That my mom gave to me some of her uniqueness. And her unique goodness.
At a young age, I became her sounding board. She would speak to me as not only a mother, but friend. Like me, and even more so, my mom was candid to a fault. And she told me in 1987 that Valentine's day was her favorite holiday. She told me that she was disappointed in the way my dad treated Valentine's day. He was not a romantic sort, and unlike me, my mother's words were less impacting on him.
One of the things my mom taught me was not to contact people only when you wanted something. She said that you should maintain contact with friends, so when you did need something, it wasn't as though you were only calling when you needed a hand. Essentially, she was saying to take initiative in your relationships.
So, as soon as I was old enough I made sure that my mom was my Valentine's day date. Even to the exclusion of girlfriends, and in one instance a double date with a third-wheel girlfriend and my true love, mom.
My mom was so smitten with my talents as an artist and so encouraging in my romantic pursuits, that it was easy and fun to treat her on these occasions. And there was a lesson here too, that gaining affection was easier from a position of love than from scorn, or being hard to please. I would make her a card, without fail. I would sometimes sing her songs. Once I had learned to play the piano, I would play for her love songs. She would cry and I would be touched that I could touch her.
My mom was perceptive in a super human way, always noticing the minutia and subtle messages. She knew that I was paying attention to her wants that were made so clear to me so long ago. At one time, I sang a song that I had written for a girlfriend, and she loved it, but asked me, "that was beautiful darling, but what girl is this who has made my son feel this way?" It wasn't idle curiosity, but her being empathetic to my feelings and having a genuine interest in my interests. When I told her, she didn't merely utter some platitude like, "oh yes, she was lovely", but wore a look of concentration and motherly love, really considering the person in question and divining from who this girl was, who I was, and the song, to draw a conclusion about her only son. Then she smiled and said, "I guess it wasn't too hard to get her to call you after that." I told her, "Actually, she never heard it mom. But don't worry. I've sung it to others with good effect." And she laughed.
I considered my efforts to be a gift to her. I thought to myself, 'oh, mom will really be glad I'm doing this for her' and 'mom will really be moved that I'm choosing to take her out instead of so and so'. Now that she is gone, it's more clear to me that our dates were a gift to me. I would rather have no other date than with mom. She was funny, fun, and interested in what I had to say. I too, was interested in what she had to say. And she was not above having some fun with our waiters. Her wonderful, inappropriate musings were always welcome. And good for a hearty laugh. At times, I would get glances that suggested some sympathy for my embarrassment. I loved my mom when she was at her most embarrassing. She was so youthful in appearance and attitude that we were oftentimes mistook for either a couple or siblings. Knowing not to out her real age, based on another of her early lessons, one of us would tactfully correct whoever was mistaken with the truth. I would then allow mom to receive the spoken and implied compliments with pride. In my mother.
There is no substitute. I tried to send happy Valentine's day wishes to another maternal figure in my life. It was underwhelming. I made a card and wrote out a nice message. It was received well, and with much thanks. Even still it was not the same. I learned that like my mom, sometimes when offering of ourselves we are vulnerable. And when reciprocity is unattainable, contentment is unfeasible. I must now simply look back fondly on the wonderful Valentine's days that my mom and I had. She was beauty. She was fun. And now, she is a memory.