I was 11 when my mom died of a broken heart. Broken from what had become of her life, what she had let wash away, had chosen to let wash down. The current finally took her too, it seemed, along with my innocence.
I was 5 when I realized she couldn't care for me as a mother should, that I was the parent, she the child. That I would have to be the self-preserving one. Despite what I thought I knew, she did manage to hide a lot.
Innocence is lost though when you look at her and know it is for the last time. To see someone so unlike the woman who tucked you in at night, wore French perfume and perfect makeup. I sang Bye Bye, Blackbird as nurses hung in the doorway to her hospital room.
After she was gone, a part of me left too -- a part that didn't return until my daughter was born, a love that can only be shared between a mother and her child. Some people say you become a woman when you become a mom. That is true, I think, but I became a woman much sooner than that.
I was 12 when I saw the shock of red so often welcomed with cheers and excitement. Here it is, I thought, and walked myself to a pharmacy seven miles away. I didn't tell anyone, just bought what I needed and continued on.
I would tear up sometimes, let myself be lost most of the time. Would day dream, have photographic memories better left unremembered. Thankfully, I realized that life is for living, that I was a part of a different blackbird song, one meant for flying.
I didn't have my mother to see me become a woman, to watch my features bloom to be like hers. There's the same curve of the eyelids, the same chin and small features (except for our eyes). Sometimes I feel like I'm looking right at her.
I wonder sometimes what she would think of me, how I've turned out. What she would say about a new dress I've bought, how I've decorated my daughter's room. If she'd stop over unexpectedly with clothes and lunch and good advice. What she would say about my husband, if she would hold his face in her hands, thank him for loving me.
I've decided to throw a party when my daughter becomes a woman, a party just for us. I'll bake her her favorite cake, embarrass her with wrapped pads and cute undies, tell her this is a special time, that I'm proud of her. And as she ages, as I see the curve of my cheeks in her face, the same expressive eyes, I hope to see a glimpse of my mom in her too, a part left unbroken and free. A bird aloft and alight.
And if she ever wants to walk seven miles to a pharmacy, I'm walking with her.