Those boxes have been sitting there collecting dust for a year. Barely touched.
I knew at some point I would have to open them, dig through the stuff, keep some, throw away others.
I knew at some point I’d have to be face to face with some of my mother’s stuff–her clothes, her handwriting, her pictures.
It’s been a year since we moved into our new house, the house I was supposed to bring my mother into. But a few months before the house was finished she died. Now all I have are a handful clothes and some pieces of paper with her handwriting, hidden, stashed away in those boxes along with my kids old toys and some curtains.
I thought I was doing okay, I thought I have finally moved onto a different level of grieving, I thought I was finally done with months and months of ugly crying, of loud howling, and the crippling loneliness. Until the day I had to open those boxes and face whatever’s in there and the painful emotions that come with seeing them.
In the first box I found little pieces of paper with my mother’s handwriting. She had a nice penmanship, with gentle curves, swaying like water color in water. I caressed them, dust flying up onto my nose, my face. I imagined her hand on the paper, it was a little piece of her I can keep forever I thought. So I tore off a piece, and kept it in my wallet.
And then I found a small bag with her little papers, in between them were my pictures. My graduation photo from many years ago, and another from my first trip overseas. I flipped the stuff over and a picture of my son fell out. She had me and my boy in her bag. I knew my mother well enough to know that she kept those pictures, carried them around with her, and took them out to stare at them whenever she missed me or my boy.
I sat on a corner and cried my eyeballs out. No one else will love me like that I told myself. No other person in the world will love me the way my mama did, no one else will miss me the way she did. No one else will long to hold me like my mama did.
As I dug through our boxes, putting away old toys and stuff to donate and throw away I found her blouse. And I remembered her wearing it.
I paused a few minutes and caressed the fabric. Images of her came rushing into my mind Images of her wearing that blouse, calling me “Ne (little girl)” asking me “Masaya ka ne sa buhay mo? (Are you happy? Are you happy with your life?)”. My mama often asked me that because to her its all that really matters. She would often tell me what’s important is that you’re happy. I sat on the floor clutching my mother’s blouse imagining her calling out my name from outside like she used to.
I grabbed a big pillow put the blouse around it and pretended that I was hugging her. And for a few seconds I got to trick my mind into thinking I was back in her room, lying on the bed beside her, hugging her like I used to. I could almost feel her hand caressing my hair. I could almost hear her voice asking “You love mama Ne?”.
Oh but I do Mama. I do. And I miss you everyday. I don’t know when this feeling will go away.
That night I dreamt about her. The same dream I normally have when I feel she visits. It’s a dream within a dream and in it I’m hyper aware. I took that moment to tell her how much I missed her, asked her if she’s fine if she’s happy out there, but all I got was a smile until I woke up.
Maybe it was just my subconscious mind trying to comfort my broken heart, maybe it was really my mama who saw me that day hugging her clothes, crying for her and so she reached out to tell me she’s still around. I wouldn’t know.
I hope those of you who still have their parents with them will cherish them while you still can, while they are still there wearing their clothes writing those letters and calling your name. Because someday all you will have left are a piece of blouse, little bits of papers with their handwriting, and a broken heart wishing you can have them back.