Memories are trailing through my head like ribbons of silver. Today is my mother’s birthday. Our parents, like snow, cover us with a protective layer of beauty, but unlike snow, do not return to our lives once they are gone. Loss is inevitable. Memories, however, refuse to melt away.
Born between the Great Wars of Europe into a life of privilege, she witnessed terrors of World War II, endured bombings, the loss of her fiancé as well as all the trappings of her upbringing. She was forced to scavenge for food in the countryside for herself and her family, risk her safety to hide a wounded partisan from the Germans (who would later become her husband and my father) then attempt to build a new life while suffering the oppression of Communism.
My memories of her are like a kind of silky pollen that clings to the fingertips and brings back what was once pleasurable. I recall her going swimming each morning at the public pool prior to starting her workday. I remember her laughter and her smile, twin lights that would brighten the darkest room. I noticed the way both men and women would turn their heads to look at her, struck by her beauty and simple elegance. I can’t avoid remembering her insistence on honesty and kindness towards others, nor her intolerance of pettiness and injustice. And I will never forget the love that poured from her towards me and the other members of her family, nor her ultimate sacrifice in giving me up and sending me away from Communist rule, never knowing at the time if she would see me again.
There is an emptiness on the planet she once occupied with a leader’s grace and a pilgrim’s sense of wonder. When she spoke, you listened. When she walked, you followed. Her life was laced with acts of kindness. I’m more of humanist than deist, but she taught me that we’re all going for the same thing, more or less. Peace, a nice dinner with someone you love, and strength enough to make it to the horizon.
Sometimes you cry even when the person you love has been gone a long time. It’s been nine years, mom. I miss you every day. I regret you never had the chance to see your grandson’s happiness in the city your sister so dearly loved, Paris. I’m consoled only by the knowledge that you have slipped the surly bonds of earth and are dancing the skies on laughter-silvered wings.