Mother’s Day and the Art of Presence

I decided to sneak into my parents’ house for Mother’s Day and surprise them, but when I arrived no one was home.  I set out the card and gift I had brought and sat down.  I spent a lot of years living in this house with them, but now it feels unseemly to open the fridge or muss a blanket on their sofa.  It is so silent, so unlike the banging and yelling chaos of my neighboring apartments.  Their cat is indifferent to my presence.  I would not know where to look for extra floss or toothpaste.

I am a distinct and separate unit.  I have been for a while.

I try to imagine them  out, probably to dinner or for a walk.  But I like to imagine they become entirely different when I am gone, reckless and carefree.  What if they stayed out all night dancing and getting trashed?

A magazine I was published in sits on a coffee table.  My photo of a birthday is on the entertainment center.  There are reminders of me here and there.  It makes me think of the ghosts we carry of the people we love when they are not present.  I’m not talking about death, or at least not exclusively about death, but more about how we hold our beloved ones before us always, imagining them in places they are not.

This is what you would say, I say.  And then I make guesses.  This is what you would do, I decide.  And I make more guesses.

I look at the photo of me, clueless as to that former self.  What would she say?  What was she thinking?  The younger me, forever blowing out candles.  She sits in front of me and I cannot animate her.

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