Today marks 32 years since I lost my mom. Yes, a lot of time has passed, but this day still stings. Although I like to be optimistic at the start of a new year, my new years are always darkly colored by the veil of this anniversary, and a February filled with more sad milestone dates. I have written about the circumstances of my mom’s passing and I do not want to rehash that. You can read my original tribute with those details by clicking here. All these years later, I continue to miss her, to wonder what she would think of my life, and to wish she was here. There is no one more appropriate than my mom to be honored with a Disney kind of tribute.
Reflecting on my loss, I thought about Mary Poppins Returns. Mary Poppins has been a favorite character since I was a child and she continues to captivate me. This new film is not a remake, which is probably a good thing, because the original was a spectacular entity unto itself which could never be recreated or duplicated. This new film is a treasure in a different way, with messages that resonate for me about love and loss.
There is a touching song at the beginning of the film in which Michael Banks (yes, all grown up and with his own children) is looking through his deceased wife’s jewelry box and talking aloud to her about missing her advice about ways to take care of the children. Michael struggles with losing the family’s house because he feels his wife is so present there. As the children help Michael come to terms with this additional loss, he realizes that his wife remains present in the children and her spirit will not disappear with the house. He shares with the children, “Your mother’s not gone. She’s in your smile, and your walk, John, and Annabel’s eyes… She’ll always be with us wherever we go.”
I love when people tell me that they see my mom and dad in me, not just because I do look like both of them, but because they have so influenced the person I have become. To this day, I have a hard time when I see that restaurants and shops that I visited with my mom close and disappear from the landscape of New York City. It feels like I have lost the tangible evidence of our memories, taking them further and further away. I sometimes need to remind myself that I carry all those memories and the relationships within them in my heart, and by sharing them, I pass them along.
I inherited my mom’s love of Disney and her vibrant inner child and sense of whimsy, and she is always vivid in my work as an educator. For the second time, I took a group of students from my club to see the Rockefeller Center tree and holiday windows. They like hearing about how I did these things with my mom. I know that she would be thrilled that I am giving this opportunity to young people. So would my dad. They are a part of me and how I live my life. I am proud to be able to honor them. When we watched Coco and discussed Day of the Dead, I was not afraid to be vulnerable and let them know that I like the concept of being visited by my loved ones and their always watching over me. It has helped several students face their own feelings with regard to loss. Last week, a student opened up to me that she was struggling with grief. I shared with her an Eskimo proverb, “Perhaps they are not stars in the sky, but rather openings in heaven where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy.” She told me that she printed out the quote and put it on her wall. It warms my heart to know that my experience supports others, especially young people. In my sad moments, it is consoling that my mom is also helping me to bring wisdom and caring to others.
As I have delved deeper into writing for children, I think about how much fun my mom and I would have had working on stories together. She saved a lot of my own childhood writing, and I will look at those stories and hopefully find some inspirations. I hope to find some of my mom in those stories, too. I know that I will bring her with me into my endeavors.
I do miss being surrounded by genuinely loving family. It would sadden my mom that I had boundaries for family. At the end of her life, although she did begin to distance herself from some relatives, she tolerated a lot to placate my grandmother. I do not possess that level of selflessness. I like to think that at least my mom respects and is happy that I am at peace with the way I live my life and with my chosen family of friends. I will always aspire to have a fraction of her selflessness.
Despite missing her terribly, I remind myself that maybe I shouldn’t refer to today as the day I lost her. As Mary Poppins said, “You can’t lose what you’ve never lost.” This beautiful song says it all so well.
The Place Where Lost Things Go
Composer: Marc Shaiman
Lyrics: Scott Wittman
Performed by Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins)
Time to close your eyes
So sleep can come around
For when you dream you’ll find
All that’s lost is found
Maybe on the moon
Or maybe somewhere new
Maybe all you’re missing lives inside of you
So when you need her touch and loving gaze
Gone but not forgotten is the perfect phrase
Smiling from a star that she makes glow
Trust she’s always there
Watching as you grow
Find her in the place where the lost things go.
Days like this, where I look though photos and reflect on memories, are sad yet oddly welcome. Tears are okay. I find it self-affirming to remind myself of how much of my life has been motivated by and instilled by the love of my mom (and my dad, of course). Now, they live in me.
Mommy, I love and miss you today, and always, and hope I make you proud.