I’ve been writing/working on this memoir for three and a half years now (wow how time has flown). While I’ve had a few opportunities to share it, I’ve just been a tad on the insanely nervous side to really let anyone read it.
However, after going through the workshop process and not getting it ripped apart or running out in tears, I’ve decided it’s time to put on my big girl pants and share it with the semi world (I would say world but unfortunately the whole world does not read how to with Courtney…weird I know).
So here goes nothing:
Inappropriate Times to Wear a Tiara
Chapter 1/ Book Opening
My mom knew how to absorb all of the light in the room. She had an essence about her that just made you want to be near her. Something that made you think, “Hm, I want some of what she has.”
I grew up living in that shadow, the shadow of always being told what my mother would and would not approve of, or how my mother “would not have done it that way.” It was a constant battle between family members of what I should and shouldn’t do, luckily I won that battle by running away from it, far, far, away.
Slowly, while building a life on my own, I came to realize that if my mum was truly who everyone said she was, then she wouldn’t care what I did so long as I was happy.
So, I did what made me happy, and wore a lot of tiaras in the process of figuring that out.
When I was six my world changed. After battling almost a year of ALS my mum passed away.
The night she died every aunt and uncle from her side crowded into our split-level pink home. One by one people went into her bedroom, which had been revamped into a make-shift hospital room, holding a portable hospital bed and a regular twin-sized bed, one that my father and I would take turns sleeping on. I took the opportunity of a crowded house to hide in my bedroom, I couldn’t stand to have another aunt or uncle tell me just how much they loved my mum or to have them look at me like some lost orphan.
I put my face in my pillow and breathed in. Still not fully aware of why everyone was there, though I realized it wasn’t a joyous reason. I lifted myself up onto my bed, and pushed back against my cool wall. My feet barely reaching the edge of my bed.
I heard a knock on my door, without looking up I heard the familiar squeak of it open and my sister shuffle her way into my dimly lit room. The only light in my room was the pink lamp seated on the white bookcase my mom bought for my nursery. The nursery of her beloved baby girl.
“Are you okay?” She whispered, crouching under my Minnie mouse canopy.
I gave my best smile in reassurance.
“I think there are some people who want to see you.” She held out her hand and pulled me down from the safety of my bed. The bed where my mom once had tucked me in but no longer had the strength to.
I walked out and was greeted by a fresh round of grieving family; all letting their sympathetic eyes find me. I finally found my dad in the crowd, his face pained and eyes stained red. He hurried over to me, sweeping me in a hug and told me of the new plans to sleep at a friend’s house.
“Why don’t you go say bye to mum” he said quietly while putting me down and ushering me into the live wake.
I tip toed inside her dark room, shutting the door behind me; the only noise left in the dark pit being the beeping of the heart monitor, the steadying beep…. beep. I put my hand in hers and felt the lifelessness that her hand-held. She wasn’t there anymore, her personality and everything that made her, her, was gone. There was just a body left.
“Mommy” I whispered.
“I love you mommy”
I saw a tear start to form in her eye and slowly trickle down. Her eyes holding the only life left.
I nuzzled my head into her neck, being careful of the wires I had learned to avoid. I breathed her in; she smelt of everything pink and the way mothers should smell. The smell of an alive, loving mother, not one who would be gone within the next two hours. I lay next to her for what seemed like a second, and then was interrupted by my father.
I felt his strong warm hands rub my back and slowly help me up.
“No, I’m not ready!” I whispered “Please” I said a little louder.
But my pleas were lost.
“It’s time to go.” He said.
“I don’t want to leave her. Why do I have to go?” I cried.
I could see my father trying to fight back tears. “I’m sorry, your friend is here. Tell her goodbye,” he stopped “you’ll see her tomorrow,” I heard him choke.
I hugged my mother, not tight enough, and whispered that I loved her and goodbye.
That was the last time I saw her.
The next morning I woke up to a big breakfast, the kind my best friend’s mom was famous for. I had just managed to stop worrying about the other night when my dad and sister rang the doorbell. I saw their tear-stained eyes, but didn’t realize what was going to happen next. They each took a hand and led me up her dirt driveway. I could hear my best friend in the background yelling for me not to leave, her cries drowning out the leaves crunching beneath our shoes.
I looked from side to side and waited for them to stop.
“What’s wrong daddy?” I asked.
He stopped and crouched down in front of me, I looked into his blood-shot eyes and put one hand on either side of his face.
“What’s wrong?” I asked again.
He looked into my innocent green eyes, getting ready to deal me the hardest blow of my short life.
“Mommy was very sick last night, and had to go to the hospital.” He stopped as tears started to fill his now soft dark brown eyes “The doctors tried to do everything for her, but…Mum won’t be coming back.”
My sister crouched beside us and put her arm around me.
“But when is she going to come back? Is she just on vacation again?” Vacation was when she and my dad would go away for different treatments, leaving me with my sister.
“Sweetie, mum’s in heaven” my sister whispered, while trying her best not to cry.
I looked down at the dirt and felt warm water drip from my check to the ground. I watched as little puddles formed near my shoes.
I looked at both of them, not knowing what this all meant. I just wanted my mum.
We were all silent. Both of them leaned in for a hug but I didn’t react. I reverted back to the years where I wouldn’t let anyone touch me, where I would stand still to the touch of affection from those closest to me. I pushed them away and ran as far as my little legs could take me into the field by my best friend’s house. By the time my dad and sister caught up to me I had collapsed on a pile of dead grass and just cried. The three of us sat there, me in the middle, and just cried.
I didn’t cry for years after that day.
Then we were in the limo. I don’t remember lowering her into the ground. I don’t remember who was there.
All I remember is the limo ride to the graveyard where my Aunt offered me an Altoid. We sat there, in the black limo, following the car that the woman who brought me into this world was laying in.
And then, she was gone.
Just a note: I realize this may not be how other family members remember it, please keep in mind this is my story, my memory, and how I feel it should be told.