Sticks and Stones

Funny how a magazine, a photograph, some words, a story — even someone else’s story — can sideswipe you in the best possible way.  It happened to me this afternoon.

It started with a blog post over at Macdougal Street Baby which I read admire everyday.  Thank you, MSB, I loved reading about your mother and that letter.  My god, that letter.

Then I picked up the mail and there was The New Yorker, like it is most Fridays, hidden amidst the stack of otherwise useless catalogues.  On the cover, 2 pairs of shoes.  I thought instantly:  My shoes and my mother’s shoes.

That’s how my mind is working this week / last week / dear god next week, because next week my mother will be dead 9 years and it’s all I can think about.  I’ve been flipping through old photos of places we lived while I was growing up, and I keep going back to this one.  It wasn’t quite this dilapidated when Mom and I lived here 30+ years ago, but close.  I remember the white, peeling paint.  The close trees.  The broken down porch we couldn’t sit on because it was falling down.  We lived here 2 years (which was a long time for us) while I was in 7th and 8th grades.  It was the last place we would live by ourselves, the last place where it was just the 2 of us.  The next thing I knew Mom got married, I became a teenager and started high school, and that was that.  She with her new life, me with mine.

Now I can’t stop looking at this picture.

The New Yorker sideswipe doesn’t end with those 2 pairs of shoes. That would be too easy.  Meghan O’Rourke has a heartbreaking story about her mother’s death on page 32.  I couldn’t have found this story at a more perfect time.  Thank you, Meghan.


15 thoughts on “Sticks and Stones

  1. lizisilver

    Your post made me run out to the mailbox to see if our New Yorker had arrived. No luck.

    I know there is nothing quite like a mom’s hug, but I send you a big hug anyway.

  2. erikamarks

    Teri, you are a sweetheart. Here you are grappling with such a heavy load right now and you check in with me to see if I’m okay after a long blog absence. Thank you, dear. The New Yorker is such a pleasure–my mom hands me down her hand-me-downs so it might be months before I got to read this moving piece otherwise.

  3. Sherry Stanfa-Stanley

    My dad will be gone 21 years next week. He died at age 53, only a few years older than I am now. It’s strange the little things that will make me remember him: the smell of Old Spice aftershave, a man’s grin (he looked a lot like an older James Franco, only not stoned), and a Frank Sinatra song.

    As the years pass, I find these recollections make me smile more than make me sad. I hope it becomes that way for you, too, Teri.

  4. lisahgolden

    Oh, this made me tear up. I’m a rat who doesn’t call her mom enough. Hugs to you, Teri. I hate it that your mother was gone too soon.

  5. MacDougal Street Baby

    It really sucks. There’s no other way to put it. Learning how to live alongside the pain is one of the hardest things I’ve found. I thought it would be something I could go through and then package neatly in a box and put up on my shelf. I could point to it when I needed and say, “Oh, yes, that’s my Mom. And, yes, I miss her.” It didn’t work out that way. She’s with me, always. And her memory, like your experience, is sparked at unexpected times.

    I love your words and your remembrances. A porch you couldn’t sit on? That’s tragic. Keep writing. You’ll unlock so much you had forgotten.

  6. Downith

    Yes Teri, keep writing and here’s another hug from me. Thank you for the link to the New Yorker story – it was very moving.

  7. Lyra

    The two houses that you wrote about in the last post bear an uncanny resemblance to this photo…
    Maybe your mom was sending you a sign to remember when you lived there, remember she loves you. I belive in those synchronicities. May grace find you when all of these emotions and memories swirl around, my friend.

    1. Teri Post author

      So true, Lyra. Our realtor told us recently that people subconsciously look to buy houses (or buy in neighborhoods) that remind them of their best childhood homes. Yes, I think she’s onto something …

  8. Averil Dean

    What is it about shoes that are so personal? So endearingly scruffy, with worn-in bumps where the toes used to go. When my dad died, his last pair of leather moccasins was my undoing. {hugs}

  9. Laura

    My mother died at 56, too — a decade ago. I haven’t read that New Yorker story yet, but thanks for pointing it out. I think I’ll save it for when I’m at home.

    1. Teri Post author

      What are the chances, Laura. I’m sorry for your loss as well. Sometimes it seems like it happened so long ago, others it’s like it just happened and I’m surprised when I can’t call her up on the phone.

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