Last week Dora and I traveled around Ohio for my uncle's funeral. We stayed with my in-laws, my beloved Aunt Joanne, and in my childhood home with my dad and his fiance. Each night, in a different bed and with a different bed time, we snuggled up together for sleep. For being dragged all over the state, being asked to sit still during a funeral service, and having no consistency in diet or schedule for 4 days, Dora did incredibly well. She had a few meltdowns but was overall a sweet little angel, breathing softly in the bed next to me, sucking her fingers and holding her night-night close.
I thought about my mother a lot over the weekend. I was in Ohio for her brother's funeral, surrounded by members of her family - people who knew and loved and understood my mother, who miss her in the way that I do, who remember her sense of humor and her personality. It was Easter weekend, a gloriously warm and sunny spring weekend, with daffodils all around - a time of year that my mother loved. As I slipped between the sheets next to little Dora, dwarfed by the big bed, I thought of sharing a bed with my own mom as a kid when we would travel - in hotels, at family members' houses. I have an older brother, and when beds were in short supply I slept with my mom and my brother slept with my dad. It was always such a treat - a special night for just mom and I. She would jokingly tell me not to kick her, but I know now that she probably - at least sometimes - loved those times as much as I did.
At the funeral, my cousin's husband had put together a little book of stories and photographs about Uncle Roger's life. The book included a story about my grandfather, Carl Brady, being one of only two men not laid off from a job at a door and sash company. Each week, Grandpa Brady took five dollars to each of the men who had been laid off. When the stock market crashed and accounts were frozen, my Grandma Brady's father, Charles Albert Keuhn, let Grandpa Brady borrow the money to keep up with the payments. My Grandparents went on to be successful business owners, running a lumber company in Barberton, Ohio for many years.
I hold on to these stories of my mother's family more strongly than I ever have in the past. Much of the genealogy of my family has been researched and established - my mom and her sister have worked for years gathering that information, even traveling through Tennessee and North Carolina with my dad in search of answers. I feel fortunate that those details have been worked out, and it's fascinating to look back at the charts and dates and imagine the lives that have led to my own unique experience. It's the stories that go along with these charts and dates that I hope we don't lose hold of - the details and insignificant moments that could easily get overlooked but that paint a picture of those we have lost in a more vivid, colorful light.
I have often envisioned myself gathering together letters from my mother to try to more clearly understand her experience as a mom. I have already caught a glimpse of some of this through the letters I have found - a letter written when my older brother was just a toddler, into everything and keeping my parents on their toes just like Dora does now; cards sent later to my Grandma Brady, detailing our latest accomplishments and challenges as young adults. Sometimes these notes seem filled with insignificant moments or mundane details, but to see my mother's handwriting, to read her words again - even a to-do list can become priceless, can point to commonalities I would otherwise have no way of knowing.
On Easter Sunday, after church, Dora and I drove south through the sunshine. In West Virginia, the lumbering hills around us were just beginning to turn green. In Virginia, we traveled through bucolic farmland, vibrant green fields dotted with yellow daffodils and forsythia, pink weeping cherries, white Bradford pears. We played "spot the farm animal" and ate raisins. We saw baby lambs, little calves lying in fields with their mamas, a spindly legged sable colt silhouetted with its mother against the Virginia sky. It was such a beautiful, beautiful day, even if spent in the car.
I try to reconnect with my mom now through those old stories, and by staying close with her family, with photos and letters and pure reflection. What I didn't anticipate when I lost my mom is the way we would bump each other in the universe, time compressing between us as we slip between the sheets next to our daughters. Joy and sorrow and love and beauty collapse in on one another, and my mom and I are in the same place even if for just a moment - regarding a lovely spring day hand in hand in hand. When I gave birth to Dora, I felt a connection to all the mothers in my line - united by the transformative power of birth. I did not know then, as I am beginning to see now, that the experience of mothering brings that connection, too. Whether mundane or profound, that is a detail I am so thankful I have noticed, so moved to have experienced. The sun shines on me now just as it did on my mama, even if the clouds are gathering sometimes, even when the day's journey is too long. In that way, in that place and time, we are together again, now and always.