The summer of 1992 was the year my memories came alive just when everything and everyone was dying.
It was the first summer it really sunk in that my parents had divorced and my mother was not coming back. The “sunk in” hit the very core of me when I “graduated” from 5th grade in a ceremony of me decked in a white cap and gown and my father in the sea of faces to cheer me on with my mother nowhere to be found.
This was the first summer that I would be with “strangers,” as my father made a decision that we would embark on an over 8 hour long car ride to Canada where he would drop me off to stay with my aunt (his sister) and her family. In the days leading up to the big trip that would consist of fried fast food and me singing to show tunes, Madonna, and Mariah Carey, my dad gave me a light purple scrapbook for me to make memories to record my time in Canada all alone without him and my sister for the first time in my life.
It was the summer I remember feeling like I was really losing everything and everyone, but the thing about losing is that you end up having nothing to lose and all the more to gain from the mysterious future and path of what lies ahead.
Holding on to morsels of memories of my parents when they were still married and a fairly decent 5th grade year, I taped in my 5th grade school reports, last remaining pictures of my parents together, and letters my father wrote filled with comfort and love to the hot-headed confusion and anger I had towards my mother for her abandonment. On nearly the last page of the scrapbook, I taped in a card of a cartoon bear with a shy and awkward smile and hands behind its back. A bright pink heart covered the hefty and hairy body with the childish scrawl of “I Love You.” This card was the first and last birthday card I can ever remember receiving from my mother. Only one birthday card from my mother in all the years that I have been alive, and live to tell you about this.
For nearly 33 years, I kept this birthday card, completely lost in wonder and memories tied in with unexplainable emotions if my mother even remembered the day I was born. I say “nearly” because just several months ago, destiny intervened to finally give me the answer to my questions and contemplations.
Of course, it was a day destined to happen, but destiny refused to make it an easy encounter.
My sister and I decided to bite the bullet to finally see our mother in Manhattan. I could not even remember the last time my sister and I saw our mother. For that matter, I could not even remember the last time I alone had seen my mother.
Everything was going wrong that day.
It started out with roadblocks to the train station that we had to bypass and put our trust into the detour signs. Then, the train was delayed for at least ten minutes. Finally, the train ride into Manhattan was canceled because of flaming fires that had occurred on the tracks. Certainly, destiny was laughing loudly and mischievously at this mayhem. Certainly, destiny did not want my sister and me to see my mother. Or, so I thought.
After draining back and forth verbal battles with my mother, my mother declared that her and her family would drive up to see us at the local diner to eat juicy burgers and crispy French fries rather than overpriced Manhattanite dishes. About an hour later, we all united in the diner and painfully endured awkward silences, glassy and glossy chatter, and verbal pokes and prods that very almost resulted in explosions.
I was counting down for this meeting to be over and done with when my mother stunned me by pulling me aside from everyone on our way out. With tears in her eyes and as her hands gently brushed mine as she handed me a large envelope, she whispered softly in her broken English, “I never forgot you.”
Later that evening in the calm quiet of my apartment, I carefully and curiously opened the envelope. Inside were at least three birthday cards from the last three years that my mother had not seen each other. I could not believe it. I was stunned and speechless.
My mother had never forgotten the day that I was born.
I expected to start crying, as very little gets me very emotional. But, there were no tears. Just an immense sense of peace and understanding from these birthday cards that my mother had remembered me all this time. After all these years. After nearly 33 years and it was just dawning on me that just because my mother or really anyone does not show or say does not mean that they have forgotten. Maybe some people want to forget because it just hurts too much to remember. There are others who wish to remember because it is too frightening to forget and even more difficult to let go. Memories are personalized and full of such profound effects that live on and never completely die or rest in peace—even when we want them to. Have you shown, told, or made it known to those who you remember what you actually remember? What is your greatest and most unforgettable memory and of who?
The summer of 1992 was over twenty years ago. The summer of 1992 was the year where the memories came alive and died and everything and everyone was lost and gained. The one birthday card that I believed I ever received from my mother taped in a scrapbook still remains there. Twenty years later and more birthday cards from my mother and many more from others are my keepsakes and reflections of my memories and moments in life.
Many who know even just a little about me know my love for words and cards and especially birthday cards that symbolize celebrations of life and living. Many probably do not know that I have boxes and boxes of cards that I have received throughout all these years. No materialistic birthday gift or any gift, for that matter and to me, is ever so great as a birthday card that makes meaning to life at that certain point in time and memories come alive.
These birthday cards from my mother spoke volumes. She remembered the day I was born. Indeed, she never forgot me.
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,