I'll Never Write a Novel

The Memoir of a Personal Essayist OR Confessions of a Theatre Widow

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


My mom always referred to her daughter's husbands as "Son-by-Law," as in "How's my Son-by-Law doing today?" This was a question she usually asked before she even asked about my well being. She never used the term "In-Law." I never really thought about why she said it that way, but it was one of her regular Momisms I loved. I could go on and on about those...

In any case, maybe my mom used the term "by" because she didn't think of these kids through marriage were hers "In-Law" only. They were absolutely hers, not just in name alone or on paper. I think that all my siblings and I have wondered, at least once, if Mom didn't like our spouse better than us. Now, don't get me wrong, I never doubt for a moment how much my mom completely and thoroughly loved me and liked me, to boot. But she loves her kids-by-law, too, and would move mountains for them, like any Mama would. Asked to jump, she would surely say, "How high?" I've been thinking about this recently.

In fact, I have been thinking about my Mom a lot lately. Through the holidays, and approaching the anniversary of the day we began the journey of this loss, it's hard to not think about her. It's nice to hear from other who have been through this kind of loss. They let me know how normal my sadness, grief, flood of memories, and other feelings are. But this time has also opened a window for me to imagine talking to my mom. It's really what I miss the most. I logged so many hours of conversations with her that I can put myself so easily into the mindset of what those talks would be like now. It's not the same, but I feel closer remembering what I love. And I thought about how often my mom would say, "What do you need?" She always asked that. A classic Momism. It's a magical gift how she could tap into that with people. And she meant it. She really wanted to know what you needed and would do anything she could to get you what you needed. Rare and wonderful.

So, walking down the street in Washington, DC, in a little drizzle, I imagined her talking to me. This wasn't in a crazy, "Are those Care Bears over there?" kind of way. I just put myself in that place where I could just talk to my mom. It's a very familiar place. And I am a person who believes that the separation between this world and the next isn't as impenetrable as some might think. So, I know she could hear me. And I could almost hear her say, in her beautiful 30-years-removed, but not a day compromised, New Jersey accent, "What do you need?" and I imagined my reply...

I need your "Son-by-Law's" show to go to Broadway. It's so close we can almost taste it. It's time and the whole cast has earned it. He has earned this. We know it's in discussions, we just someone to step in and get it done. It would be amazing to have our little family all in one place for a long period without living in limbo.

And, I know my mom. The wheels started to churn and she was thinking about who she knew that might be of help. She thought about all the people she could talk to. All her knowledge was poured into it. And, she also wanted me to know that I should "Pray for what's right." God has a plan and He knows best. We always need to seek the best outcome, even if it's not clear why we don't get what we say we want. It's surprisingly true how God has a way of making things work out for the best, even in tragedy. Knowing that I was asking for something for her "Son-by-Law," separated from him by nothing, I'm positive she will do what she can to take care of what we need. No one will be happier to see him on Broadway than my Mom.

As I got on the elevator with Little G she saw some food that had been dropped on the floor and said, "Chi Chi," another classic Momism to describe something dirty. Then and there I knew, my mom is very much alive in little ways, but we have to look beyond our own wants to see it. She's there. She's in me and my prayers, my family and their dreams, and in my daughter in all her little ways.


Blogger BethanyWD said...

Noreen - what a lovely post.

(I'll add the Broadway show need to my prayer list!)

8:35 PM  
Blogger Camille said...

I feel my Mom with me all the time, and find myself thinking "WWMD?" (What Would Mom Do?) when I don't know what to do. As the holidays and anniversary approach, let yourself be sad or happy, or a little of both. It's ok to miss her and grieve the loss, but as you have beautifully pointed out, she's with you in all aspects of your life. And she will be with you always.

I'll hope for the best with the show!

10:13 PM  
Blogger heatherliv said...

Noreen- This is one of the most beautiful posts I have ready in a long while. I have to believe that your Mom is there with you, in ways big and small, all the time. I will continue to keep you in my prayers as you navigate this turn in your river of life. The water just keeps flowing.

I passionately believe in the power of prayer, and so as your Mom would say will pray for "what is right" for you and your family. I know that God's plan will unfold for you three, beautifully and in ways you never would have imagined!

hugs across the miles

10:36 PM  
Blogger The Olson Trio said...

There is no doubt in my mind that your mom is right there with you .... just as she's right there with all of her kids. In some ways, I wonder if she's even more content now that she be with all of her kids at the same time ... guiding them, comforting them, and reminding them to "pray for what's right."

Thank you for such a beautiful post about your mom. (Of course, my co-workers probably all think I'm nuts because I'm crying at work, but that's ok!) :)

8:51 AM  
Anonymous Rona said...

Nor, this is lovely. Prayers and good thoughts are coming to you and the family.

PS - the Care Bears line...I'm still laughing.

8:28 AM  
Blogger tacomachickadee said...

Beautiful. You do your momma proud.

7:04 PM  
Blogger tacomachickadee said...

You made me cry, btw.

7:08 PM  

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