May 092014

Mom 1Sometimes the ads on TV and radio are unbearable, and other times I find a thin, sarcastic, silver lining in the fact that I no longer have to participate in this Hallmark Holiday. Gone are the long-winded cards, the boxes of Russell Stover Candy, and the tiny throw pillows with kitschy, cross-stitched “If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother” phrases.

Gone also, though, is her broccoli casserole.

It’s one of the things I miss, my mom’s broccoli casserole. We’ve all tried to recreate it, but our mother’s brand of love, because she belonged my siblings and I, was hers alone. It was, and is, the essential broccoli casserole ingredient. It cannot be grown, or purchased, or (like the Cheese Whiz) genetically modified. This indispensable element is also missing from the macaroni and cheese and the Jell-O with the vanilla ice cream and the mandarin oranges.

I miss the chats, too. My mother’s ability to carry on a conversation…about everything… about nothing…for days was the stuff of pajamas, coffee, cigarettes, and legend. I miss the elasticity of those gab-a-thons—her laugh, her advice, her scolding, her nitpicking, her consolation, her empathy, her understanding, her simply being on my side—they went on forever, but not long enough. Her voice is difficult to conjure now. I hear it when I cut my hair too short, or when I drink beer from the bottle at a wedding, but it’s shrouded in a blanket of too many weeks, and months, and years. Time, incidentally, passes differently in her absence. It is somehow slow and fast, cumbersome and inconsequential. Its edges are sharp and dull, defined and blurry. Sarcasm and kindness, bitterness and happiness, anguish and joy all compete to fill the pieces of the conversation that would have been hers. During our very last talk, my mother, God love her, told me she’d watch over me from up above. When I’m my best self, when I’m grateful, and kind, and generous, and happy, her last words are a comfort and a blessing, but when I’m tired, and crabby, and cynical, and chewing gum in church—not so much.

But what’s the one thing I miss most of all? For me, it’s her hands. When I think about her, it’s always her lovely hands. God, my mother had hands that were made for holding. They were soft, warm, and pudgy, great for squeezing, not like grabbing a cupful of cold bones. My mother’s hands were like going back to bed when it’s raining outside, a bite of grilled cheese dipped in tomato soup, or finding twenty bucks in your pocket. Pure. Simple. Joy.

Those hands did so many things. Those hands pointed me in the right direction, and showed me the way. They prayed, they made broccoli casserole, they cleaned, they knitted, they smoked, they drank, they changed diapers, and they wielded a hearty wooden spoon. They clapped, and twirled, and waved, and they wrote the occasional check that paid my hearty Talbot’s bill. God, I miss those hands. Above all else, though, those hands held on tight. Those hands held mine…through so many things…I just wish it could have been so many more. Her hands held me when I entered this world. Mine held hers when she exited.

If I close my eyes, I can feel them still. I can raise them to my cheeks, and draw them across my forehead. If I close my eyes, for a second, I can lift the veil of too many weeks, and months, and years. I can, but something will always be missing.

—Mother’s Day, 2014

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  5 Responses to “On Mother’s Day, For Me, It’s Her Hands”

  1. Hi Julia!
    Thanks for the tribute to your Mom! I’m sure she is honored! Another fond memory of your Mom’s hands was her “dancing” with her hands going in circles, with her charm bracelet jingling, with a playful, but coy look in her eyes! That was her way of joining in the fun when she could no longer dance. Love that classic photo you included. Perfect!

  2. Julie:

    You are such a gifted writer. Your thoughts captivate me, grab me and make me read on. Through words you make others feel what you are feeling. WOW!


  3. Beautiful.

  4. What a beautiful post. Your mother sounds like the type of woman I would loved to have known.

    My best to you this weekend.


  5. Greetings Julie,
    I saw your post on Facebook and followed the link to your website. I thoroughly enjoyed your first book, especially since we have a family connection.

    I was so touched by your tribute to your mom. It made me think of all the amazing women in my life who have passed on and left such an impression on my life (Grandma Fountain, Grandma Vink, to name a couple). Today is the memorial service for Matthew’s grandma. She lived a full life to the age of 98. Your post made me think of her especially (along with your mother, of course).

    I guess what I’m trying to say is – thank you for sharing your memories of your mother. It is the most simple things about a person that we miss the most. Yet those simple things remain in our hearts forever and shape who we are as individuals.

    Thanks again for sharing.

    Kristin Broda (Vink)

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