“It’s A Strange Feeling, Having Your Heart Remember Something Your Mind Cannot”* by contributor
Growing up, I was so attached and in tune with my mother that when she picked me up from my after school program (where at least 100 kids frequented) I could tell she'd arrived from the sound of her keys clinking down the hall, long before she ever came into view. The sound of her laugh was more familiar to me than my own, and I could describe to a tee the exact shade of reddish, goldish, brown her hair was. When you’re that intrinsically linked to someone, you can’t imagine a world in which they don’t exist. What’s more, you can’t imagine a you that exists without them because they seem to be a part of you that’s forever embedded on your soul. Everyone always thinks it’s a benevolent thing, to love someone more than you love yourself, but those same people often fail to take into account what happens to you when that person ceases to exist.
I am reminded of my mother at every turn, even in the most mundane of moments. As I place moisturizer on my face, I am gifted with a flashback. I am a child again, studying her every movement in the mirror as she puts her makeup on. It seems like magic, watching her doll herself up. But, I don’t truly understand why she even bothers going through the motions, because she’s already the most beautiful person I know. As I watch her, she watches me even more carefully until I stick my little clown nose up in the air ever so slightly, and that’s our signal. She dabs the tiniest dot of lotion on my nose and just barely brushes her blush brush across my cheekbones until I too feel strong and important and beautiful, as she is. This was our ritual, many moons ago. It’s weird how memories like that one flit through my mind, coming and going as they please. Some are strong, and those are my favorites. They grip me tight and transport me back to a happier moment in time. Others are so flimsy and weak, that I get a suspiciously sinking, feeling that in my pathetic desperation to remember her, I may have just made them all up. Unfortunately, the latter are much more common. Most days, I’m lucky if I can grasp on to one thing about her. Just one, tiny, detail that at the time seemed trivial and meaningless, but now is all that I’m left with.
It’s such a strange feeling to lose someone you love. There’s an air of finality to it that nothing and nobody can prepare you for. It’s a heartbreaking experience where you are nostalgic for the moments you shared together, but simultaneously you long for the missing moments at present and feel robbed of those moments that have yet to occur. There are so many life events she will miss out on. So many moments that I’ve felt have come to define me as a person that she hasn’t been present for. Even the happiest moments in my life are not left untouched, but rather they are tinged with sadness because she’s not around to share them with me. If I’m lucky, there will come a time where I have lived more life without her than I have with her. And when that day arrives, I wonder if all I’ll be left with is a vague recollection of dreams and memories I’ve strung together in a sad attempt to fill that empty piece of myself that I can never get back.
There’s a sense of guilt that comes along with this forgetting. Guilt, accompanied with an outrageous amount of panic. It’s a rather slow building panic, a sense of sickening unease like the moment in a scary film right before something truly horrifying pops out at you. A state of foreboding that makes you seize up with tension and no matter how you try to fight it off, you just can’t relax. Sometimes I think I can feel myself going crazy, straining every single piece of my brain to remember something as trivial as what she sounded like she was singing off key and yet despite my concentration, I always seem to come up short. Five years later, I honestly can’t even really remember what her voice sounds like anymore. On a really, really, good day, it goes in and out and when it does, I like to replay it on repeat in my mind; over and over, like a mantra until I think it’s right enough that I can hold on to it for a little bit longer. So I can hold on to her for just a little bit longer.
When you know someone that well, you think you can never forget things like the sound of their voice, or their laugh, or where the frown lines in their face that only show when they’re mad are, or all the little quirks and nuances that make them, them. But you do, and you’re left with no more than a mere idea of what they represented for you. It’s like trying to remember a dream when you first wake up. Try as you might to grasp on to to those feelings and ingrain those thoughts into your mind, ultimately they always slip away. Leaving you in a paralyzing state where you’re left to wonder if the whole thing ever really happened at all.
*quote from A Little Princess