Some of my mother's belongings are still in her dresser. Several pieces of jewelry and small statues of the Virgin Mary remain. Sometimes I go into my father's room and look at these things, trying to keep the memory of my mother intact. I look at her jewelry and can see her wearing different pieces, things I bought her for Mother's Day, for Christmas, or for her birthday. I find cards I don't even remember giving her; she kept every one, just as I do. It feels like just yesterday that I was watching her apply her make-up before going to dinner or out dancing with my father.
A few of her things strike me more than others: a receipt for a brown wig and a piece of paper with the results from one of her checkups. I want so badly to understand what happened when I was a child. I want to see it from the perspective I have now, rather than when I was ten years old. I want to understand.
I love to look at pictures from my childhood. I try to remember the simple times before those less-than-simple times. Every day was exciting. Mom wouldn't let her family slump around, she was a lively person full of creativity; she was the one behind the vacation plans and Halloween costumes.
For my first Halloween, I was a bunny rabbit. I had a white headband with two big white ears sticking up, a fluffy pink coat with pink sweatpants, white shoes, with whiskers made with black eyeliner. I don't know how I was able to stand up with all the gear. My mom made sure I was a warm bunny. For my second Halloween, I was Minnie Mouse. Elaborate costumes were an October ritual.
My mom would tuck me in before I went to sleep each night. She would sit on my bed and we would talk about anything, or she would tell me silly stories. Then she'd rub my head until I fell asleep. Having her next to me gave me security and love. One night she actually slept on the floor next to my bed because I wasn't feeling well.
I remember that after watching my favorite movie, "Little Women," I made the comparison between scarlet fever and cancer. I said, "You know how scarlet fever was deadly at that time, but now it can be taken care of easily? Cancer is deadly now, but maybe in the future a person will just be able to take a pill and be healthy again." I wonder what my mom thought about that, coming from her nine-year-old daughter.
I love my mom, and always will. I wish she were still here, especially now. I feel like I need her now more than ever. It's difficult, but we do what we have to do to keep going. Losing a mother is something I'll never get over. Sometimes I think people are sick of me talking about it and I wonder if I should stop since it is a thing of the past, but it never will be. I'm just thankful I had those 10 years.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.