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Erica Ford Headshot

What Mom Missed

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ERICA FORD
Erica Ford

I've had enough of my mother being dead. Can I have her back now, please?

I walked down the aisle with no parting words from her. What would she have said to me? I'll never know. When my bouquet arrived and was hideous -- the wrong color, wrong flowers -- I looked around for her to rearrange it; she would make it beautiful somehow. But she was nowhere to be found. She didn't see me marry in the off-white dress we picked out together. She never saw me walk down a church aisle with a long veil, like she often told me she dreamed of. Instead, her ashes patiently waited to be placed in the church garden.

When I got married and had to move to a remote town 2,000 miles away from everyone I knew, when I was so lonely I wanted to scream and run but didn't know where to run, I couldn't talk to her. Couldn't go home and hear her tell me to deal with it and stop my nonsense.

When I found out I was pregnant, I ran to call her, but no one answered. We never went shopping for maternity clothes together. We never went shopping for baby clothes together. She never saw my big stomach; my pink polka-dotted baby shower dress.

When I delivered my daughter, no one came to the hospital. No one came to the hospital for the second. Or the third. She loved little girls. I now have three that she's never known. She loved pink and old-fashioned smock dresses. White crocheted booties and little bitty diapers.

When I had my first newborn and was sleep-deprived and awed, no one sat with me and told me that I was doing just fine. No one stayed with my husband and me. No one cooked meals for us or helped us do laundry or cleaned or changed diapers or did a night shift so we could get some sleep.

No one told me to put the baby on a schedule. No one told me to give her formula or to let her cry it out. I wouldn't have listened, so why am I sad she wasn't there to tsk-tsk at me? Would she even have butted in and said those things? Or would she have just given me that look I saw in her eyes sometimes, of admiration at how I always did things my own way, even if it meant crossly telling her to leave me alone?

When my first daughter started cooing, my heart swelled and I ran to call my mother. The feel of my ribs turning inward on themselves when I remembered she was dead was more than I could bear. The first tooth, the first steps, the first words; I wanted to tell her everything, but my words would have just fallen, silent but violent, like a deaf person watching glass shatter.

Time doesn't heal. And it wasn't meant to be. And it wasn't the way God wanted it. It's not fair. And it's all wrong.

So, I've had enough and I'd like her back now, please. I'm ready for her to have coffee with me. For her to tell me how to thread my sewing machine. How to make geschnitzeltes with dumplings. How to get chocolate stains out of little girls' party dresses. How to handle an ear infection in the middle of the night.

I'm ready for her to roll her eyes at me when I use sanitizing wipes all over a table before I let my kids sit at it. "It's a miracle you're still alive," she'll say at my fussy, particular ways, even though I inherited them from her. I'm ready for her to gloat and laugh when my argumentative just-like-me child challenges every word I say.

I'm ready to tell her that I understand better why she got so crabby with us. I understand now how children can find your last nerve and yank it mercilessly. I'm ready to tell her that I think it's a cruel coincidence that both of us had to move thousands of miles away from our homes and raise our children all alone.

I'm ready for her to diaper my baby and spoil my older girls with sweets. I'm ready for her to give my daughters that grandmotherly look of unabashed happiness mixed with wistfulness that says, why couldn't I have been this relaxed and joyful with my own kids? Why did I worry, worry the years away?

I'm ready for her to sit with me and look at my wedding album. She can tell me what she thought about how it all turned out. Did she see me? Did she cry? Was she happy or absolutely furious that she didn't live long enough for it?

I'll show her my daughters' baby albums. Did she meet them before they were born? Did she wish she could hold them? Did she hold them?

If she could have spoken as she died, what would she have told me? Do I already know?