UPDATE: I have entered this story in a Birthday-themed writing contest at Deanna Schrayer's website. Here is the link: The Other Side of Deanna. I'd also like to thank my aunt, Leona Adkins, for providing me with the pictures for this post.
I started to write this piece for #fridayflash for Mother's Day, but I was overcome with emotion in the middle of writing it and couldn't finish. I decided to start writing a new version to post for my birthday.
There are sacred traditions that exist between mothers and daughters. Traditions which bind them together like thread on a loom.
I am my mother's first born, the first daughter of her womb, and we had such traditions.
One of our rituals, repeated every year on July 3rd (by telephone, when we were living long distances from one another) was in the form of staged conversations that occurred during the years following my move to Florida. My mother left her home in Ohio when I was in my teens, escaping a marriage marred by perpetual violence. I left the Buckeye State and flew south to live with her when I was twenty. These dialogues began shortly after we were reunited.
Mom said, "Do you know what I was doing on this night in 1965?"
Me, straight-faced: "I don't remember, actually."
"Smart ass," she said. "I was trying to push a baby out of my belly. It hurt like hell!" She laughed then, a dry-sounding laugh that bordered on coughing. She was always very sickly. Doctors tested every year for TB. Her father died from the rare kind that attacks the bone, before she was old enough to say her first word.
"I'm sorry," I said.
"I'm not," she replied. On the occasions when we were together, this would prompt a warm hug.
So that the situation would not turn too mushy, I broke away with a light jest. "11:54 p.m. Why couldn't you wait six more minutes so that I would've been a firecracker baby?"
My mother exploded in a burst of mock anger. "ME! It was YOU that couldn't wait."
"That's right. I wanted to get out and start partying!"
This was our cue to collapse into laughter.
"You're still a firecracker," my mother said.
We would then proceed to get uproariously drunk and argue about whichever Stephen King book we happened to be reading at the moment. These arguments would follow with my mother admonishing me for not writing stories like I used to when I was younger.
"I'll pick it up again, someday," I promised.
"You better or I'll kick your ass."
Every year, no matter where each of us happened to be, my mother would either visit me or call for my 'birthday' ritual, although the words would vary somewhat from year-to-year. This tradition carried on through a relocation to Texas (hers), a wedding (mine), a battle with kidney disease (hers), and the illness of a spouse (mine).
Until 1999, when the ritual came to an end. Her veins shut down and she could no longer receive the dialysis treatments. The howling misery of it all was that I could not be with her as she departed from this life. She was in Texas; I was in Florida. My husband had just come home from his second hospital stay, and we were broke.
I can't begin to describe the pain that exists in not being able to say a final goodbye to someone you love. Especially to your mother. There are no words that cut deep or raw enough for that kind of pain. That kind of void.
My mom was my best friend, confidante, drinking buddy, and number one resource for most of the dirty jokes of my adulthood. Plus, she was my mother. There is no way to fill such a void. Ever.
I continue the ritual alone now.
On July 3rd, at 11:54 p.m., I lift my face to the heavens and say, "Why couldn't you wait six minutes?"
This story is for my mother, Georgia (Georgie) Juanita Adkins. I love you and I miss you, mom.
P.S. I'm writing again.