Well, today is Writing Group day and after much foot dragging, I have my story. I got a little tripped up on the writing prompts, where were:
1. Your most memorable experience involving something inherently Mexican (a vacation, a meal, a game, a souvenier, a friend). (honoring Cinco de Mayo)
2. If you had the opportunity to have a last conversation with someone who died, who would that person* be, and what would you say? (in honor of Memorial Day)
* feel free to substitute an animal or house plant or tree (Dutch Elm, American Chestnut, Christmas tree)
I toyed with the idea of writing about performing in a mariachi – about being tugged on a flatbed trailer through East Austin while trying to remain upright while playing Los Caballeros or singing Solamente Una Vez without tumbling into the road and smahing my viola. I could have spoken to my imperfect grito, which would make your ears bleed or how I love El Cascabel as sung by the beautiful Terri Hernandez or even how I secretly dig mariachi music, but then all the bolitos would scurry for their Top 40 stations and I’d find myself an outcast among my friends.
I finally decided on doing the Memorial Day tribute, but I’ve overdone the “Mom” theme, so I tried to think of a way to make it about the missing Roanoke colonists – my idea was “what is something that is not known, but could be known if you knew the right person to ask”. I didn’t get very far with that. I kept going back to the fact that I’m actually pissed off at Mom for not haunting me. (Look, you have your very special issues and I have mine.) Fine, I really don’t believe in ghosts, but that’s not a good reason for her not to take a moment out of her eternity to make a small appearance. When you grow up hearing “your great-grandmother visited your grandmother” or “your aunt heard from your grandmother” you end up with a lot of expectations from your dead. And I’m sure on a deeper level, it lightly touches on some of my Mom issues.
Anyway, here’s my submission – maybe it’s a little too rushed – too forced – too something, but my brain actually locked up when it came to the prompts. My only hope is I don’t embarrass myself today.
I don’t believe in ghosts. But with that said, the last time I saw a ghost, I was five and likely high on tales from daycare or hallucinating after being tricked into eating my Mother’s signature dish, Dr. Pepper marinated Spam.
Now there are plenty of ghost stories on my mother’s side of the family. There was the time my grandmother, Grandbuddi, was sitting at her kitchen table and turned to see her own mother staring back at her from the hallway. After Grandbuddi passed away, my aunt was going through a particularly rough time in her life, weeping on her bed and felt Grandbuddi kneel beside and pat her back comforting her with the words, “it’ll be ok, darling”. That same aunt woke abruptly one morning startled after having a dream where her younger sister, my Aunt Jen, passed away. A few minutes later the phone rang and my uncle delivered the unexpected and terrible news.
My mother never personally ran into any ghostly form of Grandbuddi, or anyone else to my knowledge; however, she did lose complete control of one side of her body while driving home from work. At that exact same moment, Grandbuddi had a stroke.
My mother would often say we had a connection and would use the ghost stories to reinforce this belief – that everyone in our family was connected – that there was some inexplicable bond tying us all together. To further prove this, Mom would point to the times we’d buy each other the same present. The best example was the year I bought Mom a ceramic clown that played “Send in the Clowns” a gift she had also purchased for me that same Christmas. At times I would call her house and she’d cheerfully declare, “I knew it was you! I was trying to send you a mental message to call me.” Or we’d play the game of “think of something and let me see if I can guess,” which usually had mixed results.
When Mom passed away she didn’t come to me in a vision, the muscles in my chest didn’t tighten up and I didn’t have any prophetic dreams. We were actually right in the middle of a conversation and for half a second before I ran down a hall desperately calling for the nurses, I thought she was teasing me. Since they weren’t expecting this, I wasn’t expecting it and I stood in the hallway waiting for them to bring me back in the room so she and I could laugh about how scary everything had been. Again, as I stood in the hallway waiting, I didn’t feel a breeze or see a shadow flit by; I was alone.
I’ve since had many dreams where my mother and I talk– usually about movies or musicals or why there’s a singing animal randomly strolling around. I talk to her picture. I talk to her at her grave and I’m keenly aware of how alone I am in those moments. She doesn’t send me butterflies or twittering birds. I don’t see her out of the corner of my eye shimmering above her grave. It’s just me and my thoughts.
When I even entertain the thought of one last conversation, it goes something like this:
How are things? Good good. Un-life treating you well? There’s a new show out now called “Glee”, lots of musical numbers. I think you might like it. Oh, and one more thing… you couldn’t be bothered with a little haunting? So busy these days you can’t get around to appearing in the hall? No little pats on the back for your only daughter? No no, I totally understand, you and Aunt Jen have some shopping to do, because really material items are so important where you are. No really, I get it. You only have all of eternity to work on your relationship with Grandbuddi. I’m just saying Grandbuddi managed to find the time. No, this isn’t a competition. I was just thinking you could pop by for a second or two, say hello and then be back on your way to hunting down Bob Fosse. Seriously though, could it hurt you to say hello to your daughter once in awhile? I wouldn’t think so.
After all this time, I figure you owe me more than a whiff of your perfume or blowing a balloon around on your birthday. That’s simply not going to cut it after being absent all these years without so much as a, “fine, how do you boo?” That’s right, I’m not going to be placated by a little visit in a dream anymore. I want solid information. I need you to do a little investigating before you pop back down. I want to know what became of the original Roanoke colony. I’m really curious about that and I’ve also got some friends who want to know the real story behind Stonehenge. I don’t know, Mom just find some druid from that time period. Maybe they could point you in the right direction. Mother, if I knew who to ask, don’t you think I’d tell you. It’s not like there was a prehistoric gravestone labeled “Bob the Druid: Architect of That Pile of Stones Over There”. Don’t forget, you’re my mom and you’re the one that put this notion in my head to begin with, so it’s not my fault I’m now fussy about the whole “not visiting” thing. I think as a bonus you should also find out about Jack the Ripper. Who was that guy? My money is on Queen Victoria’s nephew. Oh, you know something different? And don’t tell me that this is like your secret handshake when you belonged to the Rainbow Girls – no “Club Members Only” info. You’ve missed three of my birthdays and who knows how many potential haunting days and we never did get to see Flags of Our Father, so this is the very least you can do. No, I don’t care about Amelia Earhart.
Well, I love you, too and send my love to Buddi and Aunt Jen. No, you don’t have to talk to Dad’s family. Mom, I thought you were supposed to be a little nicer once you were there. Don’t forget, Old Hollywood will still be there – you can break away once in awhile – Judy can wait.
But remember that day, Mom? You can still faintly hear the song if you close your eyes.
Isn’t it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air
You said we were connected. Where are you?