It was a long car ride back. Long, to me, at least. At least 60 miles back in the darkest of nights.
My, oh my, it was a beautiful night. The sky was a milky midnight, or darkest of dark, with tiny pinpricks of stars. The air was delicious and delirious to inhale with eyes closed and exhale with eyes wide open. The swollen moon was missing in the vast open sky, but I was holding on to hope that maybe I could sight and swallow even a sliver and slice of it to fill me with even more joy of such a gorgeous night that could only be created by the heavens above.
My friend’s friend who had kindly offered to drive me back late at night and I were aimlessly chatting while classical music played in the background. I was half asleep and in a hazy daze at the serenity of my surroundings. My ears perked up when he said something about being like both of his parents. “The best of both worlds,” as he put it, or as I labeled it.
I said firmly, “I hope and want to be like my dad. I never want to be like my mother.”
He was wordless. Then, he asked slowly and carefully that was a change of subject, yet staying on subject, “What is your earliest memory?”
For one out of the few times in my life, I did not speak. I was always in a cloud of confusion when it came to my memories, dreams, and reality. Particularly when it came to my childhood and family. Especially when it came to my mother.
Anyone who knows me even a layer beneath my surface knows that I have an estranged relationship (if you can call it that) with my biological mother. I can blab on and on about my father in the best of ways, and I count my blessings that I was blessed with at least one strong role model to guide me in this meandering and extraordinary journey of life filled with endless experiences. My lips and mouth have always been quite zipped about my mother. In fact, many people are often surprised and express conviction that my quietness about mother was maybe equivalent to my mother passing away.
When I do speak of her, I speak based on the memories, dreams, and reality that were bad, unpleasant, and even scary. But, don’t we all do that—speak about others based on our experiences of memories, dreams, and reality? When I think of my mother now, I realize that not all was bad, but that everything not being bad makes it hurt all the more to what could have been and what it simply is not.
There have been happy, sweet, and tender moments of and with my mother. Like with “Lemon Meringue Pie,” or sunshine pie, as I like to call it now. When I close my eyes tight enough, I can taste the tang of the lemon zest on my tongue, the bite of the crisp and buttery crust, and the pillowed softness of meringue covering my mouth like a warm and cottony blanket. The brightest image of all is my mother. I can see her with her thick cascade of black hair in a low ponytail and a floured and spotted apron protecting her soft and curved body. Her small strong hands are on an electric mixer and hovered over a glass bowl containing soft peaks of sugary meringue. She turns around to me and her mouth widens into a sweet smile. As quick as her smile appears, this image of her disappears.
I had always been in love with lemons and lemon meringue pie. I am not sure if it has to do with this memory, dream, or reality of my mother. Now, when I remember lemon meringue pie and the tang and tart from the lemons that tantalize my tongue and the sugary meringue that melts in my mouth, I feel that instant surge of happiness then replaced with sadness because my mother comes into my mind and I’m not sure if this image I have of her making lemon meringue pie was a reality, dream, or a memory. I try to conjure up more good images and times of my mother, but the floodgates of bad memories revolved around my mother are released and sadness and anger mix and mingle like fire and flames.
How can a happy memory actually inflict feelings of such profound pain, sadness, and even anger?
It becomes clear to me. Good memories of those we lost or no longer in our lives actually make our insides ache and hurt more than the bad memories because the good memories contain yearnings, cravings, and longings to what was before and will no longer be. It is easier to remember and hold on to the bad memories of these lost people in our lives to alleviate the profound pain and engulfing void when a person we entrusted, shared with, and loved is no longer there. Bottom line, the easiest and hardest act is to let go.
Although lemon meringue pie and my mother are somehow connected in my psyche, I am seeing now that a simple 9-inch sunshine pie is somewhat synonymous to the memories of those who have left us—whether it be intended, or, most usually, unintended. Memories created with and of all people possess and bring along the tastes of tart and sour of the lemons, bitter from the lemon rind, sweetness of the sugar, creamy from the filling, softness from the meringue, and crispness from the pie crust. All people radiate ‘sunshine’ into our lives whether it is for a little while or a longer while. Although it is so much easier to feel and wallow in pain, despair, and anger of a person no longer there from the bad memories rather than the good memories, easier is not better—nor does it enhance our lives. The ‘sunshine’ radiated from the people who hurt us the most are also the ones who love us the most. You know love when it encapsulates and captures all emotions and flavors that need to be felt and savored.
I could not fully answer my friend’s question in the car. I had 60 miles on a long car ride back to try to remember and decipher my memories, dreams, and realities. I had 33 years behind me and have an unknown number of years ahead of me to try to answer this question. All I can finally come up with and say now is that my earliest memories actually revolved around my mother and family and, although the images are incredibly foggy, the plenthora of emotions and the sunshine all of them brought to my life in the beginning and even now is beyond measure and describable words.
What about you? Do you ever confuse your memories, dreams, and realities of people, and especially of the people who are no longer in your lives? Who is no longer in your life that has brought and left sunshine? Who is in your creation of ‘sunshine pie’?
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,