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Posts Tagged ‘family’

The best story my mom ever told was about me at the age of four years old. It was my mom’s 27th birthday and also a family reunion where for the first time all of her siblings were together under the same roof with their father, my grandpa. My aunt from Texas, California, and Michigan were there along with my three uncles. My three cousins were there as well. My grandpa’s double wide trailer was full of laughing adults and children all there for a good time.

After eating spaghetti and watching my mom giggle a lot after a few drinks, it was time for the cake. Let me preface this by explaining how protective I was of my mom. I can remember from a young age being afraid that something bad would happen to her. I only got to see her every other weekend because my dad had custody of me and that’s how it was worked out in the courts. During the two weeks I didn’t see her, I just had it in my mind that something terrible was going to happen to her and I would never see her again.

Everyone huddled around the round table as the candles were lit on my mom’s white birthday cake. After she blew them out, someone took their finger and smeared white icing on my mom’s face. I immediately freaked out and started screaming bloody murder thinking someone had just mutilated my mom’s face. I can remember her taking me to the bathroom, sitting me on the sink as she washed her face off. The whole time she is laughing and cooing at me trying to calm me down. I remember her handing me seashell shaped soaps to look at as a distraction.

It’s funny how intuitive children are. I always thought something bad would happen to her. A few days after her 49th birthday she was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, she passed away two months later. Something bad did happen to my mom just as I suspected.

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My mom’s closest sister, well her only “blood” sibling, the rest of her 9 siblings are half or adopted, lives in Texas with her husband, and three daughters.

I haven’t been to Texas in 10 years. I was 16 the last time I went. I’ve only gone to Texas four times in my life. Since my mom’s passing, five months ago tomorrow, I have been planning a trip to Texas so my husband and 10-year-old step-daughter can make memories down south like I did. I want them to know some of my mom’s favorite people in Texas. As I plan this trip for my family in June, it has unleashed my memories of Texas with my mom.

My most memorable trip to Texas was when I was 10 years old and I got to see the Gulf of Mexico for the first time. I was more than excited to see an ocean; living in the heart of the United States hadn’t given me much of an opportunity to see an ocean. Being fair skinned, freckled, and a redhead, I was doomed before we even got there.

Mom, my step-dad, two of my cousins, and me headed for an island called Port Aransas. After a three hour drive, we were there. Before we even got to the ocean, I could smell salt in the air and see sand on the side of the road where dirt and grass should be. The land became flat and I could make out the curve of the Earth in the distance. It was breath taking.

As we got to the ocean, we had to ride up on a ferry to take us to the island of Port Aransas. The island was very small and housed businesses, restaurants, and the beach; that’s it. We parked our car right on the beach, set up chairs, lathered up with sun block, fed a flock of sea gulls, and ran for the ocean. I splashed around in the salty water for four hours before I finally came to shore.

Something happens when you are out in the water. I kept drifting to the left and even though the water was still only waste high, mom and the car seemed so far away. I never got nervous, nor did I pay much attention to the creatures swimming around me.

A middle aged gentleman with leathery brown skin and a gray beard waded past me with a large fishing pole. I had been fishing more times than I could count with my dad and never had I seen such a thick pole with a strange bulky reel and thick fishing line that I could actually see from far away.

As he waded by, I asked him, “What are you fishing for?”

“Shark,” was all he said as he kept wading forward.

Alarm bells never went off.

When I finally found my way to shore, the fisherman was talking to my family. When I arrived, they opened up the circle and revealed a baby shark. He had already cleaned it, but I was able to touch its smooth silky skin that had the toughness of leather. It still didn’t shock me, until I got older.

I swam next to a fisherman fishing for sharks; not just any sharks, baby sharks; wrong on so many levels.

We packed up and headed inland for dinner and shopping. We each got a t-shirt and ate seafood on a large covered dock. I noticed that my skin felt tight on my face, shoulders, and back. The sand inside my swimsuit was scratching and irritating me.

Upon further examination, my mom screamed out, “Oh look at my poor baby! You are so burned!”

I was accustomed to sunburns; being a fair skinned, freckled redhead, but never had I experienced sunburn like that. After we looked for sand dollars and watched the tide shift as the sun set, we headed home. It was the longest car ride of my life. I shivered and shook from the air conditioner blowing on my red hot skin. I ran my fingers gently over my shoulders and felt squishy firm lumps; blisters the size of dimes. I ran my fingers over my nose; more blisters. My cheeks, forehead, ears, back of my neck; even more blisters. I was miserable.

As soon as we got back to town, my step-dad and mom stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up sunburn creams and lotions. My two cousins and I waited in the back seat, in the dark, all alone. As we were drifting in and out of sleep, we heard a crinkling sound coming from the plastic bags of shells shoved in the back window.

“Did y’all hear that?” One of my cousins asked.

“Yes.” I whispered holding my breath trying to hear it again.

“There it is again!” My other cousin screamed as we heard the crinkling again. This time it lasted longer.

I took my hand and smashed the bag of shells over and over until my cousins screamed, “STOP!” Apparently they had failed to check the shells for crabs and they were crawling around like mad in the plastic bags.

That night I was covered in cold creams that only made me shiver more. We crashed fairly early and slept all night, and all the next day until sun set. We ate dinner, and went right back to bed; sun poisoning. We left the next day for a 13 hour trip home. It surpassed the trip from the ocean as the worst trip, it was more miserable than that. I was uncomfortable from the seat rubbing my Port Aransas t-shirt on my blistered back; the seatbelt irritated my burned neck and shoulder. I was so embarrassed by my blistered red face that I would even cry as we walked around gas stations, fearing everyone was looking at me and laughing. I had nightmares during the trip that my blisters were popping open and my shirt was soaked. When I awoke in a scream, my shirt was soaked; from sweat.

We did make it home and when my dad saw me, he was furious. He kept screaming at my mom, “She has third degree burns!”

Whether I did or not, it still was the best memory of Texas I had with my mom. It was my first ocean experience when I was too young to fear the vast waters and all the creatures in it. The next time I go to the ocean, I won’t enjoy it as much, because I will be mindful of the creatures living within its depths and fear them; I know too much.

We have planned a trip to Port Aransas with my aunt and cousins. I can’t wait to make new memories with my husband and step-daughter the way I made memories with mom. We will skip the sunburn and blisters part, but have fun non-the-less. Memories are memories, no matter how painful, literally painful they are.

To this day, I have very large freckles that outline where my swimsuit was when I was 10 years old. The freckles on my shoulders are just as big; I freckle more now on my face than I did before my trip to Texas. Permanent skin damage you ask? Most likely.

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I awoke this morning crying out in a loud sob. I had just had a nightmare. It was the kind of nightmare that gets tangled up with a memory. The memory was my mom’s memorial that took place on August 13, 2011. The nightmare was the memorial playing out all over again, only this time my mom was in attendance.

It was a balmy summer day, only hot if you moved around a lot or were nervous. Needless to say, I was a hot mess. The ancient trees cast a shade spot large enough to hold all of my mom’s family and friends. A canopy shaded the antique refinished table which was the foundation for the ashes, photos, and flowers. The ashes were in one of my mom’s favorite elephant jewelry boxes, the kind lined in red velvet. It was a heavy, gray bulky thing with an elephant’s head and trunk as the lid. It reminded me of an old black and white photo of a circus tent. The flowers were all white to symbolize peace and tranquility.

It was a peaceful day, despite the circumstances. There were so many family and friends I had not seen in ten years. It’s sad that funerals and memorials become a place of reunion. Makes seeing each other grim, hanging on the memories of my family until I see them again, which I haven’t since the memorial.

After the memorial, my uncles got out their acoustic guitars and played joyous music for all to hear. We filled the porch from one end to the other, sweating, crying, and laughing. The covered front porch on the old family home stretches the width of the house, cooling off all who enjoy the creaky old porch swing and colorful lawn chairs. That day stretched on until night, until only a few were left, soaking up as much togetherness as possible before returning to their everyday lives. We decided to explore the back acreage that held a very small muddy pond, hidden in brush, tall grass, and trees. I in a skirt and barefoot, took off running. I hadn’t visited that old pond since I was in middle school. I couldn’t wait to see if it had changed. The tall grass and brush scratched my legs and feet, but I didn’t care. I ran as hard and fast as I could, dodging fallen trees, and large branches. When I reached the pond it was completely surrounded in trees and tall brush. I ran around to the back side and found an entrance, where I immediately stuck my toes in the mud and waded around in the water. When my family caught up with me they chided me reminding me of what kind of creatures could be lurking in the muddy water and mud. I ignored them while I closed my eyes soaking up every childhood memory I could that included this pond, this land, this house, and all the family in it.

It really was a pleasant memorial, but my nightmare was not. My mom was in attendance. She took her spot during the memorial right up by her ashes, just standing there, smiling, wearing an orange sundress; her favorite. When it was over, we hugged and laughed, catching up as if she were back. Her hair was long and brown with no gray that flowed down her back and covered her shoulders; her eyes large and shining, and her skin lightly tanned and flawless, not a wrinkle in sight. She looked young and happy. That’s all I remember from the nightmare but now that I focus on it a little more I realize it wasn’t a nightmare after all. It’s not my favorite dream, but it was pleasant in a way that I got to see my mom happy and healthy, looking really beautiful. It’s been a long time since I saw that.

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