428 Ways I Love My Daughter

05/08/2015 01:23 pm ET | Updated May 08, 2016
Cristina M. Regalado

Does it matter if we are remembered once we are gone? On Mother's Day, I remember my mother and celebrate my daughter.

It began as an innocent request. Nicole and her sweetheart of seven years, Nicholaus, announced their engagement last June. After selecting a venue in Hollywood for an August wedding, she said to me, "Boardwalk Empire-meets-Great Gatsby at a picnic in Rome, and vintage plates from that period... and oh, we'll need about 400 pieces. What do you think?" It was a challenge waiting for me -- inevitable -- like my feet taking off to dance music. With samples from a Pinterest photos, I drove north on the 101 Freeway catching glimmers of the bright blue Pacific Ocean. My destination: Main Street, Ventura County. I bought 50 plates that afternoon -- at that rate, I'd be done by the end of the week. But expediency was not the goal; this was not a bridal gift registry purchase.

This was my offering to my daughter, a collection of beautiful, early 20th century plates that came with stories. A new tradition handed down with the promise of celebrations, food prepared by many hands in the company of caring people. As the collection grew, I anticipated her delight, her Roman picnic slowly becoming a reality. When she's happy, I bask in her radiance in the same way that I inhale her pain. This assignment was my saving grace -- a channel for overwhelming feelings for my daughter, my heart swollen with joy and anticipation -- my only child is getting married to the person she loves, a beginning of sorts in a world that is both nurturing and hostile. At their pinnacle, joy and pain are indistinguishable.

Ten months later -- past dozens of antique shops and thrift stores, dusty aisles, musty smells and crammed shelves -- we have accumulated 428 vintage plates. I wonder if the same emotions overwhelmed my mother when I was growing up. We never talked about it. She passed away 18 years ago, just shy of her 70th birthday. I mourned the loss deeply; it hit me hard in the gut. I wrapped my grief like a blanket and carried her handkerchief, hand embroidered with her initials, in my purse. Over the years, the pain gradually eased, but I worry that I'll forget. I cling to familiar scents to remind me of her sweet smell and listen closely to echoes of her laughter in my sister's voice.

I walk in this world with curiosity in search of deeper meanings, insisting on beauty, for I am my mother's daughter. I walk in this world with resolve and boldness not because I am brave, but in spite of my fears, for I am Nicole's mother. We've become interchangeable, my daughter and I: teacher and learner, guide and novice, master and apprentice. We carve the contours of our lives with grit and passion because we want to be remembered.