When I started this blog, I knew that one of the things I needed in order to heal was to bring my struggle with food and weight out into the light, to talk out loud (as it were) about the things about which I felt shame and guilt, the issues with which I struggled. It is partly in that spirit that I am about to share the letter I wrote to my mother as part of my recent therapeutic activities.
But I also want to share it because getting back my mother's memory and a sense of her existence in the world is so important to my healing. And putting her picture and my letter to her out into that world feels like an essential step. She existed, people -- she lived and loved and made mistakes, and she died too soon. And I miss her. But now I have her back, and an empty place inside me feels filled again.
I remember you. Despite being so young when you died, and despite the hideous betrayal of the adults around me then, the conspiracy to blot you out of my life, I remember you.
I remember how you sang to me, about the Milky Way, and how you and Audrey and I would ride in the car with Auntie Rella, Stuart and Eileen and sing as we rode through the evening. I remember your playing the ppiano, and how I figured out how to play "Danse Macabre" and Morton Gould's "Pavane" because your playing them so intrigued me, and how I used to love looking at the music in the piano bench. Music has always been part of my life, a gift from you.
I remember how you loved to read. Some of my most precious possessions are the few Frank G. Slaughter novels you shared with me. I remember the "Screen Stories" magazines you read -- I read them, too. And a love of reading and movies has been another gift from you. do you remember taking me to see "the Birds"? When we came home and you opened the screen door, a moth flew out at us and we yelped, and then laughed and laughed because we were so scared.
I remember your cooking and how you taught me how to do it. i remember how good your fried chicken was, and have never had anything like it since. Shortly after you died, I had a dream that I was standing at the stove making chicken as you did, and feeling overwhelmed because I really didn't know how. But I still make -- and love -- beef stew the way you showed me. And I remember loving the spaghetti you used to make with ketchup in the sauce -- so 1950s. I love to cook -- another gift from you.
There are a few other, physical gifts I have, and have cherished, as well. Your topaz pendant was something I wore for many years and treasured as a link to you -- I gave it to my stepdaughter on her wedding day. Another pendant of yours with a lovely purple stone I gave to Audrey last year when we were finally reunited. I still have my baby book, and over the years have sometimes reread what you wrote to me there about the day I was born, and I have carried your love for me deep in my heart, even when I was unaware of it. I believe that's partly why I was able to become the good, loving woman that I am.
I remember how you used to embroider, and how you taught me running stitches and French knots, and made sure I knew that the reverse side should always be as neat as the front. I've enjoyed embroidery through the years, feeling close to you when I did it. I embroidered a unicorn on a deep blue fabric for Lou, my one and only boyfriend, and I embroidered a pattern of ohia lehua as part of a patchwork khupe [wedding canopy] for my dear friend Richie. Even now, there is a nearly finished piece of a humuhumunukunukuapua'a sitting in my embroidery box. Another gift you shared with me.
When you died and everyone told me to be strong and get on with my life, I didn't know how to do that and still keep you present. And when Daddy married M---- and she set out to excise you from our lives completely, I went along because I so desperately wanted her to love me and be my mother. I didn't know any better, and none of the grown-ups apparently knew how to help me mourn you and honor your memory in a healthy way. But you were, and are, my mother, my first and deepest love, and my most fundamental core couldn't abandon and betray you, even as the rest of me seemed to. In some strange way -- subversive, Carol called it -- I kept you with me by taking on your pain and your way of handling it. I ate and grew heavy, and my body grew more and more to resemble yours. I stuffed down my sorrow and frustrations even as you did, and in that way kept you close even when I was not permitted to say, or even think, your name.
I understand now that that was the only way open to me, given the craziness, the fear and inadequacy of the people closest to me. I understand now that I did what I needed to do to survive, as children do, even without understanding what that was. And I did survive, and even thrived in a lot of ways. You would be proud of me, proud of my accomplishments, proud of my kindness and compassion, proud of my integrity.
through all these years, I thought that I had forgotten you and that the only part of you I carried was the weight. But now I know that's not true. I carry your musical talent and your love of reading. I carry your skill at cooking and embroidering, your joy in singing and laughing. I carry your smile, so obvious in the picture I printed out of you and placed around my house last night. And I carry your love for me, your joy at giving birth to me, your firstborn daughter.
Please, Mommy -- let me go now. Let me let you go. I carry you inside me, in every aspect of who I am. I can't carry you physically any more.
I love you and I am grateful for all your gifts to me. I hope I do honor to them and to you in the way that I live my life. Now I've put your picture up, to have a constant physical reminder of you everywhere I live.
Help me, Mommy. Help me let you go so I can keep you in your rightful place. Your life was cut short -- help me get healthy, so that I can be around for my grandchildren, your great grandchildren.
I carry your heart -- I carry it in my heart.
Your loving daughter,