Not long ago, I found myself walking in circles inside a Walgreens. I went in because I wanted to buy a couple of sympathy cards for friends, but I ended up avoiding the card aisles because they were filled with Mother's Day cards.
This is my first Mother's Day without my mom. People say that when you lose someone you love, the firsts are the hardest -- the first birthday, the first Christmas, the first Mother's Day. Last year at this time I was terrified that my mom would not survive her recently diagnosed cancer, and this year that fear is my reality.
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After finding a couple of cards near an end cap, I wandered over to the Easter candy aisle thinking that some chocolate might make me feel better. That's when I saw the marshmallow Peeps. Those were my mom's favorite, and I always bought them for her at Easter. Now they have hollow milk chocolate eggs with a marshmallow Peep inside: my mom would have loved that.
Before my mom died, she said things like, "I will always be a part of you" and "You'll always have me in your heart." I couldn't imagine then what it would be like to not have her here anymore, but my relationships with my daughters help me to understand what she meant when she said those things.
When my youngest daughter was in kindergarten, she went through a phase where she felt disproportionately guilty after she had done something wrong. Her dad and I were over it, her sisters were over it, but she couldn't get past her guilt -- she couldn't move on. She would say, "There is just this voice in my head telling me I'm bad, that I never do anything right, that I'm not good." Finally, I thought to ask her whose voice it was in her head telling her these things. She looked at me like the answer was obvious.
"You!" she said. I laughed and cringed at the same time. I had never said those things to her, but she had picked up on my frustrations and disappointments, and that translated into negative self-talk spoken in my voice. It was a good reminder that as a mom, my voice is powerful.
We joke about hearing our mothers' voices in our heads, and when we are younger that may feel more like a curse than a blessing. But we are lucky if over time that curse turns into a blessing as her voice becomes a part of us.
In pretty much any given moment, if I quiet myself, I can imagine what my mom would say to me. I can still hear her voice, feel her love. Now I know what she was trying to tell me.
Our oldest is learning how to drive, and in a few short years she will be leaving for college. Sometimes I look at her -- in some ways she is like me and in other ways she is so different -- and I know it's happening. In the day-to-day mothering, I am becoming a part of her and she, well, she has always been a part of me. It is what it means to be a mother.
I think I will go back to the store and walk directly to the Mother's Day card aisle. Even though it will be hard, I will search until I find the card that best says what my mom means to me, and then I will walk to the check-out and buy it. And even though I don't care for them, I might even buy a package of marshmallow Peeps -- I think I'll hear my mom's laugh when I do.
• Becky Baudouin lives in the Northwest suburbs with her husband and their three daughters. She blogs regularly at beckyspen.blogspot.com.