My brothers and I have been slowly cleaning out my mother’s house — the family house — over the past few weeks.  Some stuff was easy to remove like recent knick knacks and decorations that held few memories, the sympathy cards wrapped up in a rubber band, pieces of furniture purchased just in the last years.  As the weeks moved along, and the new family was getting ready to take possession, we knew we had to start digging deep into the stuff that reminded us of the 50-plus years my parents lived there.  For my brothers and I, it was the only house we knew for a big chunk of our lives, and the house where we celebrated just about every holiday throughout the years.

On the last visit, I had to get tough and remove some of the items that were there forever, it seemed.  And, I knew my brother, who spent most of his time with our mom, might not be able to take them down.  So, down came the house blessings.  OMG, how many house blessings she had around the house!  If there was an award for house blessings, we’d surely take first place.  Oh, and all the positive affirmations on the refrigerator, above the kitchen sink, on every shelf.  It seemed you couldn’t glance anywhere without reading the Serenity Prayer; and in her bedroom, as big as a dinner plate, was this bright yellow happy face.

Then came down all the pictures of her four kids, her five grandkids, and her first great-grandchild, who she got to meet and enjoy for a while before she passed last August.  I took them all down, slowly and solemnly.  The mirror she’d glance in before leaving the house, the hanging angels, all the battery-operated clocks that ticked ever so lightly, with one clock never matching the time on another clock.  I used to think that our house was set in different time zones:  the clock in the dining room was off five minutes from the clock in the kitchen, andthe clock upstairs might be 15 minutes later.  But they had one thing in common, like I said, they ticked. And never in unison, so there was always the sound of incessant crickets in the house; a home that was never truly silent.  Except for now.  The clocks are down, the batteries taken out, and the hands have stopped moving.

In the evening, around 6:30, I think to call her. We would talk about the day, what we made for dinner, what was in the news.  If I had a problem or was wrestling with something.  She may not always have an answer, but she listened, and I always felt better.  That time of night seemed the best to call since I wasn’t dashing out somewhere, the dishes were done, and I also knew that any later, she’d be settling in for the night.

MJ with Mom at Plum Beach, BrooklynI have the best memories of her, and will probably think to call her at 6:30 for a long, long time.  With this first Mother’s Day without her, I’m not so much sad as I am grateful for all the years I had her, and that our memories are not just good, they’re terrific.  She accepted her children for who they were and was always there to advise, and we even had an agreement that we could disagree.  She loved a good joke, the Kentucky Derby, mystery books, the crosswords, and coffee.  and her love for her children was never in doubt.

This Mother’s Day, as sappy as it sounds, I’m really thinking more about my own children, and thinking that I really want to be as good a Mom to them as she was to me.  I want them to look back and have their own terrific memories.  And I think my Mom would like that.