It’s the end of November. Every year, the closing of the 11th month brings me a flood of memories and emotions.
First comes my mom’s birthday on the 21st. This year, she would have been 56. I remember how she used to joke about what would happen to her when she was old. Anytime we would see advertisements on television for Delmar Gardens nursing home, she would tell me that if I put her there after she was old and senile, she would come back to haunt me…and that she wouldn’t be a friendly ghost like Charlie, the supposed spirit that she christened as the creator of the mysterious creaks and squeaks in our old home on Suffolk Avenue. She would be a supreme “shit disturber” (her words–you’d understand if you knew my mother.) I suppose the only upside of her early death is that she didn’t have to suffer the frustrations and anxieties of growing old and losing independence. And each time I see the billboard of the old lady on the porch swing grinning a gummy smile for Delmar Gardens, I can’t help but crack a smile of my own.
Next comes, Thanksgiving. A time for family, culinary gluttony, and most of all–gratitude. This year was my first Thanksgiving as a mom and I couldn’t contain the explosive feeling of gratitude I feel for my (literally) bouncing baby boy. Everett is getting bigger by the minute and his personality is sparking. Many times, I just look at him and think “What an incredible gift.” There truly is no blessing greater. Even with the damper of leaving Ben in Nashville to work through Thanksgiving Day and the following weekend, Everett and I had a wonderful visit with family in St. Louis. We spent most of our time with Ben’s parents and sisters. I am continuously grateful to have been adopted by such wonderful in-laws. They are so easy to be around and seamlessly fill up the void of not having my own parents around. Whenever I hear my girlfriends vent about their tumultuous and complicated relationships with their husbands’ families, I smile and nod sympathetically…and secretly revel in my own good “in-law” fortune.
The subsequent notches on my nostalgic November are the sorest. This year, the 26th marked the 4 year anniversary of my dad’s death, followed by the 28th marking the 7 year anniversary of my mom’s death. This past year has been a particularly pensive year for me in regards to my parents’ early deaths. Becoming a mother has brought me a new sense of connectedness to my late parents. I find myself wishing that I could ask the most mundane questions about my own childhood…and their parenting experiences.
What was I like when I was 8 months old? Did I squirm relentlessly when I had my diaper changed too? When did I first pull up on the coffee table? What types of mushed purees were my favorite? Did you worry incessantly over the littlest things too? What can I expect next in this great parenting caper?
But most of all there is a new wave of grief to endure. The sadness I feel that Everett will never know his maternal grandparents. That “Grandma Mary” and “Grandpa Dan” will just be fading images on old photographs and historical figures in random stories told. And I grieve for them…that they are not here enjoying this incredible chapter. My mom would be doing backflips spoiling Everett, sending him care packages in the mail, and gracing his little button nose with a “binky” tap just like she did to me for all those years.
But, it will be these joyful memories of my parents that I will resurrect. Having children of my own will give me an audience for these stories, a reason to extract all of my parents’ goodness and infuse it in my own parenting style. I have already begun. In honor of my dad, I sing Beatles’ lullabies to Everett each night. In honor of my mom, I stick colorful name labels on Everett’s bottles, even though there is no other reason to identify them as his other than pure whimsicality.
So like every year at this time, I forge ahead into December…echoing the cliche: I can’t believe that the Christmas season is here already! I wrestled the Christmas decorations out of our storage unit today and am ready to flood our new Tennessee apartment with my mom’s favorite handcrafted wooden Santas made by my grandfather and Uncle Mike. My heart is heavy but full. Heavy with memories and a little bit of grief for what could have been, but full of love and excitement for the new adventures that lie ahead. In the weeks and months ahead, we will experience Everett’s first Christmas, his first awkward step, his first words. And those joyful moments will just keep coming as the years pass…and for these reasons, the end of November is not all grey and gloom. Just hazy with nostalgia and lots of sunshine peeking through.