At the moment of her death, I became acutely aware of time passage. Each hour, each day, each week, each month, I was aware I was in new territory. Territory where I continued to breathe and she did not. One and a half decades I have been breathing without her. Quickly approaching a quarter of my life has passed without hearing her voice. Without us sharing our old family stories and making new ones. Mom loved to tell stories.
Today I want to share one of her oldest stories that involves me. I was 4 years old. My memory of this event is completely composed of her version. She told this one so often that I feel like it is my memory. There was a neighborhood boy about a year older than I was and he lived a couple blocks over. This was just far enough away that we didn't often play together, but when we did and something made him mad he would reach out and grab my hair and yank really hard. When I got home I would tell mom each time this happened. She was a strong believer in letting kids sort stuff out, so she never intervened by calling his mother.
One windy day she put a hat on me with a strap that went under my chin and snapped on the other side. And sent me out to play with this boy in our backyard. Mom could see us from the kitchen window. After only a few minutes of play, the boy let out a scream. Mom looked up in time to see him reaching for my head, but with the hat there was only a couple of inches of my hair sticking out the bottom. He was screaming in frustration, because he couldn’t get a good handful of my hair and he couldn’t pull the hat off either. Before he could move out of my reach, I grabbed a big bunch of his hair and pulled with all the strength my 4 year old self could muster. He let out a shriek that would "wake the dead" mom said, and ran home. I continued to play happily by myself.
Within minutes the phone rang. The boy's mother was very upset. She yelled at my mom. "DO YOU KNOW WHAT CAROL DID TO MY SON?" My mom calmly said she did and explained what she saw. The woman didn’t believe that her son would ever do something like pull my hair and she blamed it all on me. My mom didn’t accept my guilt, but pacified the woman by saying she would talk to me. As my mom took my hat and coat off, she said I should never start a fight, but if someone else started a fight, I should defend myself and end it as quickly as possible. The boy never came to our house again and I was never invited to his.
Over the years, mom would tell this story and she always got a little gleam in her eye and a smile in her voice when she got to the part where I pulled his hair.
Mom, I miss you having my back, no matter what. I miss your stories. I miss you as much today, as the day you died.