My dad remarried several years after Mom’s body passed away. He gave me some of Mom’s things then, including an old suitcase that we’d used my entire life when we did our annual summer road trips. Hard sides, snap-open locks, a tweed-like pattern and a couple of little pockets on the inside lid. Inside the suitcase were a few treasures that Mom had kept. None of us in the family are hugely sentimental about keeping physical objects, so these must have been very important to her for her to have kept them.
The contents of the suitcase included several white linen or cotton baby garments, most of them exquisitely handmade, hand-embroidered with the tiniest little stitches and teeny little buttons. The detail is beautiful on each of the pieces she saved. There is also a little baby bonnet and cloth baby shoes. Just a few pieces, not many. Mom sewed and embroidered, so I imagine these are pieces that she made and so they are now my treasures.
Laying aside the delicate garments I found a gauzy fringed top and pink harem pants: my harem girl outfit she made for me as a young girl! Next to it was my brother’s Aladdin outfit in blue with a fancy vest. So exciting to see these again and think of her making these for us. I also found a gorgeous white beaded evening purse, all the beads still on it, perfectly preserved.
There were a few other things but I found two very special items tucked into one of the pockets on the lid. One is a small black book: my dad’s military missal. And the other a pocket calendar. Odd to find it saved like this; my mom didn’t keep calendars. Once the year was done, so was the calendar. And she didn’t generally use a pocket calendar.
Leafing through it, January was blank, as was February, March, April and every page in that calendar except one: July. For some reason, she’d posted a payday and a couple of payments. But the oddest thing was on Friday, July 3 on which she’d written “No” and the following Friday, July 10 which said “Yes.” No other notations on any other pages except July. A No and Yes. What could they mean? And why did Mom keep this little mostly empty pocket calendar?
I took a look at the front of the calendar and noted the year and saw that it was the year before I was born. Counting backward, I realized that July was about 7 months before I was born. My heart broke open and tears etched down my face. Mom! You found out you were pregnant with me! I’m her firstborn, the oldest child in the family. I let myself cry, missing her so much in that moment, and held that little calendar that Mom had saved all these years.
Mom had spent that year before I was born caring for her mom who was dying of lung cancer. It broke Mom’s heart when her mom’s body passed away. I remember every Sunday after church, we’d go to the cemetery to take flowers and polish the headstone until it gleamed. Mom mourned the loss terribly. She once even told me that she didn’t like seeing old ladies on the street because her own mom didn’t get to become one. And my mom didn’t get to be an old woman either.
I hope that July 10 was a happier day for my mom. I hope that her pregnancy lifted her heart some. My mom was a generous, kind, loving, laughing, joyful, joke-telling, warm, nurturing, smart, amazing woman. I continue to be enormously touched that this woman who didn’t keep “stuff” kept this pocket calendar where only one month is notated, a month that had deeply personal meaning for her. Yes.
Happy Mother’s Day to all who are moms, here and there, and to all who mother.
Flowers I took to the cemetery today. I love you, Mom!