.I never thought it would happen, but somehow, I have become my mother. I was seventeen when my mother remarried and moved to another region of the country. Although I was remorse over having her move away, I was ecstatic that she had found someone who made her happy and to share her life with. Yet, her married bliss isn’t the topic of this post. A few weeks before she was to make that famous journey to New York, we sat at the kitchen table and she said,” Jo, the memories of raising children will overtake you if you don’t have something to fill the space of them leaving.” I didn’t have a clue as to what she meant as a seventeen year old. Her words stayed with me.As a child I must have taken up a lot of “space” in her life
I can still hear my mother’s voice calling me every morning, that it was time to get up for school. She would call from the kitchen, “Jo-Anne, it’s time to get up.” I always overslept a little and she would wake me every morning until I entered middle school and got up on my own. Mother also woke up well before me and baked biscuits, made grits, sausage, or pancakes and bacon; whichever was in abundance in the kitchen cabinets.
Mom bathed my chicken pox and gave me St. Joseph’s baby aspirin for fever. She would pull the quilts over me when I had the chills; she would also remove the quilts when I was too warm from a fever. Mother would sit with me for hours at the doctor’s office because I was often sick as a child.
She washed my hair, dried it with an old towel,applied Royal Crown “grease” to make it shine, and straightened it with the “straightening comb”; sometimes burning my scalp. She took me to “town” to buy shoes from the only Buster Brown shoe store. She would buy patterns to make me dresses, and sit for days at the Singer sewing machine finishing those dresses . She planted a garden with tomatoes, onions, greens, and potatoes so there would be extra food on the table.
Mother buttoned my coat when I stood at the school bus stop in the cold. She drove me to school when I missed the bus. She worried about me every time I was in trouble. She cried inside when I didn’t have a boyfriend. She disciplined me when I skipped school and was incorrigible. She did all this for me and she still had seven other children to care for alone, after my father died.
I drove my last “baby” to college last September. When I returned “home” the house had taken on an enormity that I couldn’t describe. Even though the rooms were physically empty, all these pictures I envisioned kept going through my mind. These pictures included: Jaynae riding her bicycle outside and me yelling, “Be careful, don’t fall.” My walking Ima and Uyime to the bus stop on a crisp Fall morning. (seeing the two of them as a kindergartener and a third grader) I saw me and the children praying in the doorway before they went to school.I walked into their bedroom and saw myself reading to them before they drifted into sleep. I partially heard the repetitious songs I sang to them at bedtime.
Then the years of driving them to dance class, piano practice, and choir rehearsal came to mind; and the excitement of the recitals and of course the gorgeous stage costumes hanging in their closets. The day that I realized Jaynae was never coming home again surfaced. I walked once again into the room that holds every physical memory I managed to salvage of her life.
There were no voices to be heard or physical bodies to be seen. All the noise that once so irritated me was now gone: I longed to hear one little “peep” of anything. The person that I’d created all those pictures with was gone too.(my ex-husband)
My mother’s words resonated in my head,”Jo, the memories of raising children will overtake you if you don’t have something to fill the space of them leaving.” I hear you Mom and I know for the first time in my life that because I am without my children doesn’t mean I am without usefulness or purpose.