Sunday, January 17, 2016

Let Me Go Home

I hadn't seen my mother in almost six years, or something shameful like that. The years roll by, in one accumulating avalanche of poverty, hardship, nursing school, single mothering, new-job-getting, barely keeping your head above water until one day you look around and think, "My mom! I need to see my mom!"

Things were somewhat more stable. I feel comfortable in my job now. My boys are older, and Dylan is with us now. Both he and Aiden can drive. We were between sports seasons. I could squeeze a plane ticket into the budget. And I needed a break. So, for Christmas, I gave her the news that I would be coming for a visit for her birthday in just a few weeks!

My mom lives in Denver, and this would be my first visit to this particular house that she now lives in. I did some mighty prepping at home before I left the boys to fend for themselves and each other for four and a half days.

I was greeted at the airport by my mom and youngest brother, Jonah, who is living back at home with her for the time being. The very strange thing about not seeing your mother in so long is that when you do, you are assaulted with the visual realization that she is getting older. I still picture my mom around age 40, which is when I moved away from home. Of course, I'm 42, so that can't be, but still, we want our mothers to be immortal, don't we? 2015 was a challenging year for my mom as she had cataracts removed and cornea transplants in both eyes, requiring lengthy and slow and careful recoveries, and one repeat transplant. She's been without glasses that entire time, as her eyes needed to heal without correction til a new prescription could be ordered once the healing was complete. But even without glasses, her vision is better than it's ever been in her life, which is a tremendous blessing for my artist mother.

My baby brother Jonah seemed happy to see me! He was only a little guy when I left home, so he and I don't know each other well as adults, but he let me stay in his room and we had terrific late night talks.

My middle brother, Micah, who also lives nearby in Lakewood, came by with his wife and children and it was fantastic to see them.  Micah is a devoted husband and father, who has overcome so many things in his life and is now working full time as a manager of a restaurant and plowing his way through school earning straight As, with hopes of working for FEMA one day.

I had to reacquaint myself with Micah's children, Madden and McKenzie, whom I haven't seen since they were tiny. I just told them that their dad is one of nine children and I'm number one. As long as they remembered that I was Aunt Jenna and that I'm number one, we're good.

I loved seeing Micah with his children.

Here's Mom in her chair. Every chair in her cozy living room has an afghan thrown over it, and there are books lining the walls. So, it's pretty much a perfect room.

Her sweet kitty Lavender is usually right by her side as well.

I made chili for everyone for dinner the first night, with Micah's family staying for games around the table which was so fun.

The next day, I took my mom and Jonah to see the movie "In the Heart of the Sea" (which I'd already taken my kids to, because, Hello! Moby Dick and Conor!) and then Mom treated us to sandwiches and salads at a favorite deli.

The day after that was her birthday and I really wanted it to be special for her. I planned to cook dinner for everyone again, Shepherd's Pie, and to bake her a cake. Mom has special dietary restrictions, having both diabetes and Celiac's disease, but I had seen a recipe on one of my favorite blogs for a gluten-free cake. Now, of course it had some sugar in it (not much, really), but while she must be careful to watch sugar intake, it's the gluten that she must absolutely avoid. I asked her if I could give it a try, and she was game.

I started on the cake early in the morning. Get this, it was made with quinoa. Quinoa! And it was a HUGE success. I think Mom felt like she was eating a Real Cake. Which was the goal.

Mom has this box of her old 45s. I love it. Someday it will be mine, but I hope that someday never comes, because that would mean that my mom isn't here anymore, and I'd rather have her than this box of 45s, even though they are really awesome. Man, I miss records. 

Micah and I had fun going through the different songs. His children had never seen records or heard them played, so you know we busted a few of those bad boys out.

We played The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Who. . . and the kids watched the records spinning and asked, "How did they get the music on there?" Though, are CDs or DVDs any less a mystery in that regard?

Dinner was fabulous comfort food all the way. Even Micah, who initially griped that there were onions in it, had more than one helping. As did everyone else as well. That was a big pan, and it was pretty much devoured.

And then we got to sing to our Angel Mother.

Her first, middle, and last child with her on her birthday. One, five, nine.

Sure love these brothers.

After cake, we played more games around the table. I think it was a Birthday Success.

The next day was for Mom and me. She drove me around Denver, showing me downtown and various landmarks. We drove over to her cathedral, and though we couldn't get inside due to some renovation work going on, it was easy to admire the stained glass even from the outside, as well as this cute door that reminded me of Mom and I had to take her picture in front of it.

Then, Mom had a tour planned of some of Denver's haunted sites. Yeah, baby. I love me a good haunted house or cemetery-turned park. We drove to several and then parked and Mom told me the history behind each place. Some good stories right there.

After the haunted houses, we drove over to a bookstore and spent an hour or so wandering around, filling our arms with books. She took some of my recommendations, I took some of hers, and we walked out of there with a few bags of treasures to add to our reading piles.

That night, Mom broached the crochet topic again. By "again," I mean, that she tried to teach me when I was 8. I vividly remember. We lived in the old house on the banks of the Delaware River. We watched Princess Diana and Prince Charles get married when we lived in that house. My dad made all of us kids watch Roots in that house. I got spanked pretty good for going down to the river and playing on the icebergs when we lived in that house, and our one episode of dog ownership happened there too. Anyway, Mom tried to teach me to knit and to crochet. I was an avid rug hooker at that age, and was devouring Nancy Drew. The knitting I picked up, the crochet made me feel like a failure. I just couldn't get it. And so with that belief, formed as a child, I never tried again.

Mom asked me, "So, do you crochet?" And I reminded her of that dark time so long ago, and told her I was still clueless. "Can Lyndsay crochet?" Well, of course not. Lyndsay can only do what I taught her to do. So, she can knit. Mom thought that maybe I had it in me to learn and so she patiently sat with me in her living room and walked me through the steps of chaining and then single and double crochet. At first the wrong hand held the tension. I moved the yarn instead of the hook. I messed up over and over again, pulling out my stitches and starting over. And Mom just bore with me. I wish so much I had a picture of it. I will remember that few hours forever. My fingers and hands were so slow, so methodical, so tense, not beautifully rhythmic like hers, flowing in and out of stitches. But I was determined. We changed hook sizes, we changed yarns, I kept trying. And I got it, folks! Another belief barrier shattered! I can crochet!

The next morning was time to head home to California. I took one more round of pictures, here with David, all bundled up for the snow.

Here with my dear Mama.

Here with my baby bro.

It was hard to say goodbye, but I felt like I'd be back soon, that visits would be more frequent.

After getting through security, I settled myself in front of the gate and started chaining. I figured I would use the flight to do some practice.

Here's what I'd done by the time we landed. I was slow (I'm getting faster now!), but developing muscle memory. My hands were less tense and my fingers didn't cramp up. And I think I really like it! I will definitely keep trying.

And when I walked out of the terminal to baggage claim, look at these three handsome boys who were waiting to greet me!

The house was clean. Clean! Even the yard had been raked and the patio swept! Everything had been fine, but they were so happy to see me and have me cook for them again. I so appreciate their support and capabilities that allowed me a visit home.

I know how grateful they are to be with me, because, well, Moms make a difference. And I learned from the best.

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