Dear Mama

Memories of my mom in letter form


Dear Mama,

Thanskgiving is a week away. It’s the second one without you. Last year was really weird – I don’t think us kids got together at all. At least if we did, I don’t remember.

Now that I’ve bought a house of my own, we’ll have new traditions. Thanksgiving will be here this year. It won’t be the intimate family affair it always was at our house. DH’s mom, dad, grandma, grandpa will be there. A, C and the kids will be there. S will be here. Maybe his girlfriend (? I don’t know what to call her) too. And of course me and DH. That’s at least 11 people, plus the dogs.

So now it’s my turn to make a turkey. I’ve done it before and I hated it. I swore I’d never do it again, but I am. And I was thinking about your stuffing – trying to remember what you put in it. I know onion and celery. But there were spices too. I just wish I remembered.

I do remember tasting the stuffing every year to make sure the ratios were right. You’d taste it and add salt or pepper or garlic salt. And taste it again. Add some more, and again. Then you’d call me over and have me taste it. You’d say “What’s missing?” And then you’d add whatever I said was missing from your spices rack.

This wasn’t the only time you’d do something like that. Your macaroni salad and potato salad were the same way. Other things too. One of the reasons I remember this is that it was a ritual we followed every year. I knew it was coming and I looked forward to it. But also, it taught me that even though you may start out by following a recipe, it should be fine tuned before serving.

I know DH won’t understand as I sit there tasting the stuffing this year. But it’s a tradition I’ll continue as long as I’m making thanksgiving dinner.

I love you,

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Dear Mama,

S brought everything out of storage and put it in your backyard. It was all jumbled together with A’s stuff. It was hard to tell what was in those boxes – most weren’t labeled with anything except “fragile” or “breakable.”

I started organizing the piles of boxes. So far most belong to A and her family. I found 3 boxes that were your old Christmas things. By old, I mean the ones that were special, that stayed up in the storage in your room because we didn’t want to break them. Those came home with me today. My plan is to repack them into something more sturdy than (repeatedly) taped cardboard boxes.

I found your wedding dress. I recognized the shape of the box that was wrapped inside a plastic bag to keep it safe. That came home with me too. It doesn’t belong out in the elements.

I found your buffet breakables. They’re in the process of being washed.

And, I found your bible. It was in the dirt next to the pile of stuff and about a foot away from dog manure. It was damp on the back and the spine is separating. I wanted to cry. It was just so symbolic of everything wrong in our family. This bible that you’d had since you were a teenager, that you kept on the top shelf, that you’d taped the pages back into… There in the dirt where it was obvious nobody noticed or cared. I had to stop and breathe for more than a minute to calm myself down.

It came home with me too. I’m working on drying it out so that mold doesn’t take it away.

I was thumbing through it, remembering the time I tried to read it from the beginning. I wasn’t raised with the word of God in my life, but I wanted to try to read the Good Book anyway. It didn’t last long. I was easily distracted back then.

You didn’t write anything in your bible, but you marked a few pages. You marked all of the Parable of the Sower, the Parable of the Net, and the story of the Eucharist. I wonder why those were so important to you. The paper you used was newer, so I know they were probably marked just before we put everything in storage. I just wish I knew why these stories. What was it that you were answering with them?

So, I just wanted you to know that your bible is safe now. I’ll take good care of it.

I love you and I miss you,

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Dear Mama,

I haven’t written in awhile simply because I miss you too much. I keep remembering things, and they make me happy and then sad. I try not to remember, but it’s impossible. Our brains just don’t work that way. I thought if I didn’t write, the memories would be easier to bear, but it just doesn’t work that way.

I realized today that I’ll never be able to go home again. I still have the key to the house I grew up in. My room is still in the back, the sofa I talked you into buying is still in the living room, and the kitchen I designed with your blessing is still there. But it’ll never be home again.

You know, when A had you sign the living trust, she said she was doing it to protect the house – to make it easier for the house to stay with our family. I’ve learned that A is a liar, and greedy, and really, really dumb. She bled you dry, stole the house (incompletely), and then lost it. The house I grew up in, the one I always considered home, was auctioned off on Wednesday. There’s no chance it’ll ever be home again. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive her.

I am so sad and angry. I feel panicked at the thought that soon my key won’t work and my last big reminder of you will be gone. It’s like I’ve lost you all over again.

There’s nobody to talk to who understands. To D it’s just a house in a not so great neighborhood. I don’t think I can explain it to him.

So instead, I’ll wrap myself in the afghan you made and rock myself on your rocking chair while I drown my sorrows in chocolate and chinese food until I feel less broken.

I miss you so much, Mama. I don’t know how to make the hurt go away.

I love you,


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Phone calls

Dear Mama,

It’s been years since we’ve talked on the phone. I found myself almost picking up the phone in the break room and calling your old desk at BHCS. Can you believe that I still have that number memorized? I almost dialed it just to see what would happen, but I stopped myself – I didn’t want to bother whoever has your old number now.

I remember calling you after school when I was young. As soon as I got in the door I had to call and let you know that I got home OK. You told me once that right around 3pm all the phones on your office started ringing because of the other kids checking in with your coworkers.

Later in the afternoon, when I was doing my homework and just feeling lonely alone in that house, I’d call you again. You understood that I didn’t really want to talk. I just wanted to listen to you breathe and mutter about the hospital and facility budgets while I worked on my homework. If your boss ever said anything about the amount of time we spent on the phone, you never told me. I appreciate it.

As I got older, you stopped requiring the after school phone call, so the connection started to wane.

Once your dementia started in, we instituted the “noon-thirty I love you” calls. I was the one checking on you instead of you checking on me. I missed those calls once your dementia advanced enough that the phone confused you,

I miss all of those calls now.

I just wanted to talk to you again today. I miss your voice, your breathing into the phone. I miss hearing you call me baby.

I don’t know why I’m feeling so sad today and suddenly missing you as much as I am. Either way, I love you.


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Dear Mama,

I just finished a really hard workout at the gym today, so exercise is on my mind. I remember one of many fitness schemes you embarked on. This one involved a bicycle.

I don’t know what made you want to ride bikes as a family. I was probably too young to really be aware of the reasoning behind it. I do remember your search for a coaster bike for adults – because you never learned how to use hand brakes. It had to be special ordered and had a cushy seat. It was a silvery blue.

Up until the first time you rode this one, I’d never seen you ride a bike. I was still pretty young, so learn how to ride without training wheels was still fresh in my mind. I remembered how often I fell, and I was worried that you’d fall too.

When you started to pedal that bike, it was so wobbly, but you were smiling so big! I was doing that nervous laugh that I do, that turned into an “I can’t believe it laugh” and then into an “I’m so excited” laugh. I hope you didn’t think that I was laughing at you. I was so excited for you, and proud too.

You didn’t ride your bike as often as you thought you would. Working full time and raising 3 kids by yourself doesn’t leave a lot of time for fun things like bike riding. It sure was cool while it lasted, though.

I love you,

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Pots and pans

Dear Mama,

Do you remember those pots and pans you bought for me? The blue ones – because that was my favorite color. You bought a set for A too, because you knew we’d both need them some day.

I remember rolling my eyes when you bought them for me. I didn’t understand that you were trying to take care of my transition to adulthood. You wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t buy cheap pots and pans (because you know how I am) when the time finally came for me to get my own place.

As an adult, I understand how important it is to have good cooking tools. I’m protective of my knife, that le creuset pot you bought for me, and my pots and pans. Seeing them reminds that you spend money where it counts.

Now that those pans have worn out, I finally replaced them. I bought the best ones I could afford. You’d be proud of me for not cheaping out on them, and still getting the price I wanted thanks to sales and coupons. So the ones you bought for me are sitting on my table. I’m trying to figure out what to do with them since they’re flaking and shouldn’t be used any more. Their replacements are on the pot rack I hung myself.

I love you Mama. Thanks for teaching me to buy the best wherever I can.


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Back to the redwoods

Dear Mama,

D and I are heading up to Eureka again. We wanted a quick getaway, and I don’t think D got his fill of the redwoods when we were up there scattering your ashes. So, while we’re driving down Redwood Highway, I’ll think of you. Maybe we’ll even drive through the chandelier tree for ya.

Maybe that’s why I’m a little down today. Thinking of you and remembering scattering your ashes. I’ll try to cheer up – I know you’d be annoyed by my moroseness.

I love you,

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Today’s Special Value

Dear Mama,

I remember watching the Home Shopping Channel with you when I was just a kid. Those sparkly rings and earrings never failed to make us ooooohhh and aaaahhhh… After QVC came on the air, we slowly started the shift to the new channel. We ended up watching QVC so much that I knew who the different hosts were.

I still have your QVC membership number memorized. I used to hear you recite it pretty often as you’d pick up the phone to order whatever caught your fancy. Oh, and every night at 9pm our time, we’d turn on QVC just to see what Today’s Special Value was. The tradition changed a little bit once QVC was online, so I could just check on it for you.

I still find myself looking to see what the TSV is. I didn’t even really realize that I was doing it until my husband teased me about it. And I realized that it was something I’ve always done, even after we moved into our own place. It was my way to stay connected with you and those memories from my childhood.

My husband made a joking comment, basically saying that things purchased from a TV show are usually a rip-off. That got me started thinking about all of the things that you purchased for me over the years – many of which I still have and use regularly.

-Pots and Pans
-Feather blanket
-Chef’s knife
-Kitchen Aid Mixer
-Blender (finally died last week)
-Lots of jewelry
-Bare Escentuals makeup
-Shower head

You even bought my first computer from QVC, and A bought me some jeans that were made specifically to fit my measurements. You used to buy lots of clothes from there too, just after your first few strokes when you could no longer drive but still wanted to shop.

So yes, I do still check to see what the TSV is, and I wonder what you think of it each day.




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Mother’s Day in Old Sacramento

Dear Mama,

Mother’s Day is coming up quick on Sunday.  It’ll be my first Mother’s Day without you.  There will be a lot of sad firsts this year. 😦

We were never a family that did giant celebrations for holidays or birthdays – although, A would probably disagree.  She remembers a lot from when she was young, but things changed when I came along.  Either way, one year A decided that we should go away for Mother’s Day weekend as a celebration.  She thought it would be fun to go to Old Sacramento.

I don’t remember everything from that trip… mostly because I’ve been to Old Sac several times since then, so some of the trips kinda run together.  I do remember that we took the train to get there.  That part was super exciting for me.  It was our first family vacation, and it was on a train!  Your car and A’s car probably weren’t quite good enough to make the 2+ hour drive to Sacramento, either that or you guys just thought it would be awesome and fun for me and S to go on the train.  Whatever your reasons, it was fun.

We got to Old Town and walked a couple blocks to our hotel.  Years later, I can still find that hotel and remember what side of the building we stayed on.  I think it was a Holiday Inn at that time, but it’s not anymore.  We spent the day wandering around Old Sac.  We rode a horse drawn carriage and watched a couple of actors have a shootout.  We looked in all the stores – you loved those little knick knack stores and jewelry stores.  We found the river and wandered along it for awhile.  We looked at the statues and followed a map that showed historical places and their stories in the area.  We stopped in at the train museum.  I took my husband to see it many years later.  We dressed up in our nice clothes and ate on the Delta King.

The next day, we got back on the train and came home.  I remember that it was hot.  You, me and A all wore wide brimmed hats.  S wore his baseball cap.  But even with the hot weather we had fun.

We made a pit stop in Old Sacramento a few years later on our Redwoods trip.  On that trip, A accidentally drove through a shopping mall.  It’s still the stuff of hilarity and legends in our family.

I love you Mama.  Happy Mother’s Day.


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How do I look, Baby?

Dear Mama,

A memory that keeps running through my head is one from when I was a kid and Dad was living with us again so it must have been 1986 or so.  His car dealership was having a party – I don’t remember whether it was a holiday party, or what – and A was going to watch me and S while you guys were there.

I remember that nervous-excited feeling you seemed to exude as you got dressed for the party.  Your energy was completely different from any other day, so I knew this was something special.  I don’t think I’ve ever really felt that from you before or since.

I watched you curl your hair with those hot rollers you always used.  Then you brushed your hair out “just so” and sprayed it into place with Aqua Net.  You carefully applied your makeup – a bit heavier than you normally wore it during the day – and put on some very red lipstick.  Then you daubed on that special perfume Dad bought for you.  I remember that you only wore it for special occasions, and only when Dad was around.

Next came the pantyhose, then the short denim button down dress with those huge shoulder pads.  You tried on a couple different belts before settling on a wide black leather belt with 2 silver buckles.  I helped you pick out your earrings as I often did.  You put a different earring on each ear and had me pick my favorite.  Then removed the one I didn’t like and added a different one until we settled on the best pair for your outfit.  Finally, you put on the high heeled, knee high, black leather boots.

You stood up, turned around, smoothed your skirt and asked “How do I look, Baby?”  I said that you looked beautiful.  You did, too!  I’d never seen you look quite that way.  Young, hep and beautiful.  Then you said you were so nervous.  I gave you a careful hug – I didn’t want to mess up your dress – and said again that you were beautiful.

I still remember that, to this day.  That little window of our lives.

I miss watching you get ready – even if it was just for work in the morning.


I love you, Mama.


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