Today is my mother’s birthday. Had she lived, she would be 69 years old. It feels as though I ought to write something meaningful about her on this particular day, but the truth is that August 3 is only one of many days when I feel her absence.
In July, there is the anniversary of her death – 34 years ago last month. In August comes her birthday. September brings my birthday and two of my kids’ birthdays, and I reflect on how she felt all those decades ago, holding her new Baby Me. Then there is October, when my kids dress up for Halloween and I imagine her seeing them with me. November is Thanksgiving, the holiday when I am a perpetual guest, and December is Chanukah. Then there is January, with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, decided the year I was born, and each year I am reminded that she found out she was having me right around the time it would have been legal to abort me, which leads me to thinking how wanted I must have been. Then there is February, a month designed for brooding, and March with Passover, and April is the cruelest month, and so on and so on.
The truth is, I grew up without parents, and no amount of healing or growing is going to change that. It is a sign of my progress in the last few years that I am able to acknowledge that the emptiness of motherlessness knows no season. Her absence is there all the time and in everything I do. It does not dominate me, I do not think about it all the time, but it certainly shapes me.
I haunt Facebook, seeking friends from college and high school. I’d like to find people I knew in elementary school, but I don’t know their last names. There is no one to ask, no contact who can help me dig up those earlier memories, so my attempts to build myself a creditable past necessarily stop when I was eleven. And no matter how thoroughly I reconstruct the last quarter century, I will always be missing the first decade.
You cannot plant yourself roots or grow yourself a childhood. It is what it is. I am not angry so much anymore but I am sad. There will always be a missing piece.