Of the many, many tragedies that taint my well-lived life, the one I probably regret with the most frequency is the fact that I don’t have a lot of pictures of my mother. I only have about two or three; not as much as five.
I don’t know; maybe it has to do with me not being much of a picture person. I’m the guy who disappears from groups when it’s time to take a picture. I don’t know; something about pictures just puts me off.
Maybe it’s the knowledge that I have to smile when I don’t feel like it (nothing personal; I usually don’t feel like it). Maybe it’s the idea that…oh, I don’t know. I just don’t like it. Whatever my reasons/excuses, they are why I don’t have a lot of pictures of her. As much as I loved to look at her; as beautiful as she was/is, it just didn’t occur to me to take more pictures of her. Despite being way into the smartphone age by the time of her untimely demise, I only have one picture of her taken with my phone. All the others are hardcopies.
It might not sound like a big deal, reading it like that, but think of the person you love most in the world. Think about the things you adore about them – like how they listen when you talk, how they hold your hand, how they call you for no reason, how their eyes light up when they see you, how they call your name – everything that makes them special to you; everything you know only comes in their package.
Now think about dealing with never seeing them again – literally.
Not that you don’t want to; unfortunately, the choice is moved out of your hands. They leave when you least expect it. They go without saying goodbye.
And what’s worse?
Not only do you have to deal with never understanding why what happened happened the way it did, you have nothing but your memories to remember them by. Not a keepsake, not a love note –
Not a picture.
And memory, even one as awesome as mine, is a frail thing. I remember thinking of my mother in terms of how she smelled, the smells I connect to my more pleasant memories of home, of growing up – coconut oil, Joy Soap and Imperial Lather. There was also one perfume – the name however eludes me now. I miss those smells – especially since coconut oil smells like plantain these days, Joy and Imperial Lather have forgotten where they came from, and home is an unfamiliar place.
If I could go back, apart from taking hundreds of photographs of this great woman, I would also make sure to record her voice. Common, one of the greatest rappers ever and one of my personal favorites, had his father frequently contribute to his albums till the man died in 2014. Imagine how comforting for him it would be; being able to touch a memory of his father whenever he felt a need to. I wish I could listen to my mother’s voice once again – but I still hear it in my head; as clear as a bell.
She’s just as warm as ever.
The physicality of my mother is preserved by a headstone, a few pictures and a letter that contains everything I need to know to live a fulfilled life. The most important things however; her spirit, her warmth, her gracefulness, her kindness – these are the things I will always have with me, the things that defined her essence.
And nothing can take those away from me.
PS: Remember those tragedies I spoke about?
They are the ink and blood that make the tapestry of an otherwise bland life colorful and interesting. They are the things that make me who I am, because no matter how tragic my circumstances have been, I always find a why to smile.
And that’s enough. I hope you get/got the message.
Oh, and one more thing:
Happy Birthday to Me.