My mother used to talk in tongues whenever I played the Beach Boys. She wasn’t speaking an ancient language. She was communicating with God in a very meditative way. And what she was saying was, ‘Man, I love this music.’
She said it during our road trips, and whenever we cut cotton for my babyTrekker business. At home, she loved gospel singers like Mahalia Jackson. With me, she reveled in the music from my teenage years.
‘They don’t make music like this anymore,’ she’d say, and keep on praying. Aloud. Sometimes she’d forget where we were and carry on, even while walking into a bank. But half the town would be dead by now if she hadn’t been praying, so I can’t complain.
She was not your average mother. When I was young, I wanted her to be like everyone else. Wear a house dress, stay home, and wait on us hand and foot. She declined to do that, and embarked on a nursing career, though she still managed to act like a house elf from the Harry Potter series. It was nothing for me to receive freshly ironed clothes, right before she left for work in the morning. There are other aspects of my lazy ways that I decline to share at this particular time, but let’s just say I was not the only child on the receiving end of things.
For years, I had this fantasy that I could go back in time and be a better daughter. I’d whip the other kids into shape, clean the house till it shone, and get excellent marks in school. My first novel was about someone doing just that. That story may never see the light of day, but it helped assuage my guilt. Which is another one of mother’s little helpers.
What mother doesn’t spend part of her life feeling bad for things she’s neglected? Maybe a few crackheads, but that’s about it. For the rest of us, guilt is an international past time. From time to time my mother would mention things she felt bad about. I’d get all indignant and say stuff like, “Are you saying I didn’t turn out well?”
She’d think about it. “Well, yes,” she’d say. She could be funny, too. A funny mom, a hard worker, a prayer warrior, a house elf, a refuge in times of trouble. The only unforgivable thing she ever did was to die. I think God must have heard one of her prayers, which loosely translated meant, ‘Please get me the hell out of here. I’m tired.’
You are missed every day, mom. And not just by your kids. Other people’s kids miss you, too. I know because they tell me all the time. So, happy Mother’s Day, mom. I hope you’re not working too hard up there, and I hope dad is finally teaching you how to dance. In honour of all our road trips, here’s a little something for you to enjoy. The words aren’t exactly the right sentiment, but you love the music. And the title hits home. Because I’d love to get you back.