For your birthday, Dad bought me a minivan. Ok, ok – it wasn’t really for your birthday. He’s been talking about it for a long time now – the doors, the captain’s chairs, the space that it would give me for the girls – but I really haven’t been interested.
I love the car I’ve got now, mostly because it reminds me of you. I’m not even sure you drove it more than once or twice, but we bought it the day after we came back to the US to be with you because we could no longer fit into a regular sized car. I remember the morning Jeff and I went car looking and took Macy with us and you kept Selah for me. She was so little then and I remember you telling me how much you enjoyed your time with her. I remember the first time I drove it and how strange it was to be up so high. I was so nervous just being out of the road; I felt like I was driving a school bus. I remember sitting in the middle between the two girls and Jeff crawling in and out of the back (which is pretty funny all by itself) so that you could sit in the front and not get carsick. I remember us going to dinner in it, and running errands, and how happy I was to be back home with you. How could I give this car up when so much of it reminds me of you?
But this is not how life works. If there’s a lesson I’ve learned over and over again, you can’t hold on to something just because of the memories it has for you. Sometimes practicality has to set it – or just plain necessity – and in this case, it felt like all the momentum was moving toward a new car for me.
As you probably already know, I’ve never been a fan of minivans. For one thing, we never had one. When you’ve only got one kid, you don’t really need a minivan and so I didn’t have much experience with one.
But when we went and looked at them, the door thing was pretty awesome and the optional captain’s chairs really won me over. All the girls cared about was the DVD player. All I cared about were the wireless headphones that would allow them to watch the DVD without me having to hear it. And before I knew it, we were going back to look again, and then Dad was going back to buy it. I’m still in a little bit of shock that it’s ours and I haven’t let the girls eat it in yet, but I think it’s going to be okay. If there’s one thing you really liked, it was updating – the house, the cars, the wardrobe. So maybe I’ll just pretend that you helped me pick it out. You would like it, I think. There’s more room for everybody and no one has to crawl in and out of the back seat.
The other day, Selah was telling me that it’s almost her birthday. First Grandma’s birthday, then hers. You’re right, I said, but don’t forget about Mama’s. Hers comes a few days before Grandma’s.
“But Mommy,” she asked me, “she’s not here. How can she get any presents for her birthday?”
In that moment, I didn’t really know what to say. You’re not here. We can’t get you any presents. Honestly, I never knew what to get you when you were here.
Grief is a lot like the waves in the ocean. Sometimes they are small and manageable waves, and other days you don’t let your kids go in the water for fear the waves will sweep them under. There will always be days, moments, times when it feels as though my grief is something I can manage and others when I fear it will sweep me under its power. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays – they’ll always be a bit harder because you’re not in them anymore.
But as I drive this new minivan (and try to come up with something else to call it), I’ll think of you. You would love to see me with three girls. You’d probably laugh to yourself as you watched them run around and play and drive me – and each other – crazy.
Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.