Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Matriarch Gone

Today I received very sad news. The mother of a childhood friend passed away. Normally this would be sad news that I could put on the shelf after passing on condolences. Parents die, it is part of life. If they aren't your own parents, you hurt for your friends as you think about the mortality of your own family. If you have already lost your parents you perhaps have more empathy and more insight and know what to say or do. But this woman was also a mother to me during the tender years from 5 to about 15. Those are some pretty important years and her guidance cannot be discounted because she wasn't my biological mother. She made her mark. She wasn't afraid to mother a child who wasn't her own.

Mary taught me lessons right along with her daughter, my bff in childhood.
I should let you know that Jenn and I were bosom buddies in the style of Anne and Diana of Anne of Green Gables. We were together all the time. I was usually at her house to escape the chaos of my own. We told each other all of our secrets. We created elaborate plays and had some pretty hot dance moves. We watched hours of Little House on the Prairie and watched the movie Annie at least 20 times. Her mother passed on to Jennifer the gory details of the birds and the bees and Jennifer of course passed this information on to me... otherwise I would have been in the dark. I learned about tampons from Mary, about how to soften your heels with a pumice stone and the importance of washing your dirty feet (because kids did not wear shoes in the summer back then... EVER) before you slipped them between your clean sheets.
Mary's house was a "door open" type of place. You peed with the door open or changed in front of others. This was in stark contrast to my puritan-like household where doors were closed and no information about personal body habits was ever shared. I model my own home after Mary's.
Oh, and pies. That woman could make some mean pies! There was always pie and tea. I remember Mary with her big mug of tea. Tea always makes me think of Mary. The woman also made her own jam and took her kids -- and me! -- berry picking so she could make her awesome jam.

There was an incident when I took one of Jenn's round hairbushes and it got all tangled up in my hair. The brush was not moving. Mary walked me out to the backyard sat me down in a chair and worked that thing out. I still look back on that day and I am amazed. She didn't call my mom -- a few blocks over -- she just took control like I was one of her own and got me all fixed up. She was like that. When I was in her house, she was responsible for me and she took that role seriously. I think about that all the time with my own kids. When they have friends over and play gets a bit rough and someone comes with a cut finger or they've lost a tooth (not an adult one thankfully) I take them and care for them like my own. I learned that from Mary.

Mary was a wonderful, loving mother and friend. I will forever be sorry that I didn't get a chance to say goodbye. Jenn and I went our separate ways around the college years. There was no falling out, just distance and I'm not good at all with distance relationships. I didn't put in the effort and lost touch. Through the magic of facebook Jenn and I got in touch again and I had the chance to meet her and her husband and beautiful daughter (there is now another pretty girl added to the mix). We trade notes on facebook, but it can't compare to real friendship. And now Mary is gone and I realize that my own inability to reach out to those not in my immediate vicinity has robbed me of so much.

My heart breaks for my friend who first lost her father a decade ago and now has lost her mom. I have lost something, too. It can't compare, but it feels like the fabric of my own history has been ripped.

I know that I was given a gift in Mary. I hope my own children can know that gift. That beyond their immediate family, there are others out there who care for their well-being. It is a really good feeling, I can tell you. It means so much.

Mary, thank you for being such a great second mom. I will always remember you and will continue to share stories of you with my children.

No comments: