Seven months ago I was on a road trip to Central Oregon with my best friend, her mom, and my goddaughter. I drove them to beloved spots and found new ones to cherish. I wanted to show them why I had to decided to move to the area.
Thrift shopping and eating are typically at the top of our to-do list. We weren’t disappointed with the opportunities to indulge in both. By the end of our trip there was a small collection of antique treasures tucked into the trunk of the car.
We didn’t have a chance to go hiking or do anything too adventurous. A dusting of rain and snow, and a baby in tow, made for mellow tourism. It was enjoyable just the same. Being out of town with some of the people dearest to me in the world, making decisions at the whim of our “girls’ trip” ideations, and paying visit to another one of my closest friends and her family, filled my figurative tank. As much as I love travelling by myself, there is something uniquely special about sharing meaningful places and experiences with those you love.
Two days after our return from Oregon the effects of the pandemic really set in and quarantine commenced. I’ve been working seven days a week ever since.
Between writing, photography, videography, editing (all for the blog), teaching swim lessons, housesitting, and caregiving, I’ve kept a busy schedule. In my “down time” I’m either trying to sneak away to my room for some mediocre quiet time, often with fingers crossed that Mom doesn’t need assistance with something, or I’m tending to various house renovation projects. My workload has ebbed and flowed from month to month, but the non-stop pushing forward from one task to another has caught up with me again. I can feel it physically manifest. My lower back quietly throbs, the muscles on the bottom of my feet threaten to seize with any wrong move. I can’t stop shoving salty foods into my mouth, leaving hands and face and ankles perpetually swollen.
It’s been seven months of serving most everyone but myself.
This week I knew I was falling apart, or rather, feeling the pressure of “keeping it together” again ripping the seams of this tired body. I rolled my eyes so far and so often that they almost tumbled right out of their sockets. I cursed enough to fill up a swear jar from bottom to top. A syrupy fog slipped into the crevices of my brain, impeding it of function and intent.
Last Friday night I opted to watch a movie with Mom. She’s been yearning for quality time with me, as opposed to me working from home while she occupies herself with a puzzle or a yoga video. I didn’t make it more than twenty minutes before falling asleep on the end of the couch. It was eight o’clock, at least three hours before my usual bedtime.
Snack bowl still in hand, I awoke to the sound of Mom clicking the tv off. I kept my eyelids loosely shut just as I did in childhood when pretending to be asleep while my parents checked in on me after bedtime.
Mom slipped the bowl from my fingers. The muffled shuffling of her feet on carpet trailed into the kitchen. Dishes clattered as they dropped into the sink.
And then I felt the softness of a familiar hand ever so gently grazing the crest of my head.
“Lauren,” she whispered, “it’s time to go to bed sweetie.”
There she was. My mother. My real mother. Mama. Moo Moo.
An ache like this should have been expected, but the surprise was genuine. The moment came and went in seconds, but like a phantom limb it lingers days later.
To be coddled by her is a thing I mourned and let go of long ago. I’m the mother now, have been for years.
But how tender it is to know the wealth of what was once taken for granted.
She’s still in there somewhere. Mom may mistaken t-shirts for shorts, leave toilets unflushed, unintentionally text herself, and leave remnants of her last meal on the dishes she “cleaned”, but in small ways her truest self still sputters and sparks.
I miss her, anyway.