I just saw a writing prompt asking to describe a present from your mother. It stopped me because just yesterday I came across a china cup on a high shelf in my kitchen. I took down the pretty, delicate cup and saucer which had been handed down from my Swedish grandmother, intending to move it elsewhere to make room for something else, but then I looked inside.
Tears formed in my eyes and my gut clenched as I looked at a scrap of paper with just one word written on it. Annabelle. Written in my mom’s handwriting. My mom passed a couple years ago, but she was with me in that moment, her recognizable penmanship saying hello. I sobbed, holding the little shred of paper, my hand trembling with the unexpected wave of emotion, as I unraveled the impact.
My mom died of Alzheimer’s. She didn’t know my name or who I was for the last five years of her life. In fact, she adamantly denied my very existence even when I stood next to a picture of myself hanging on her wall and pointed out the similarities. No. She didn’t know me. No. She never gave birth to me. She shook with anger as she asked me to leave.
But yesterday she knew my name. Many years ago, she and I had gone through the assorted odd pieces of priceless china and she’d allowed me to pick my favorites. After she passed and my dad sold the house, we discovered only one item left with my name on it. The little teacup.
My mom mysteriously chose to disown me—and only me—from her life for reasons only the depths of her disease would understand. As we went through her things, we uncovered notes in odd places, hidden with wads of cash and other valuable items, and found several notes expressing her wishes that I receive nothing.
Painful as that was, my father counseled me, reminding me of her deep love for me, and that she didn’t know what she was doing. Intellectually, I understood, but my heart was broken over and over with each new discovery.
And then we found the cup with the little purple irises on the top shelf of a cabinet. Filled with dust, a yellowed piece of paper was still inside with my name on it. In her cursive. From a time that she loved me and knew me. Bitter as I was from all the slights and pain, I’d shipped it along with a collection of other small items to my home. Eventually, I’d unpacked the cup with the note still inside and tucked it into a far cabinet so I didn’t have to look at it.
It waited for me there. To heal. To be discovered when I was ready to receive the gift.
The gift of her love. The gift of her presence and acknowledgement of me as her daughter. Maybe she knew what she was doing when she placed the cup and saucer on the super high shelf. Maybe she had a moment of clarity, realizing what she was doing and wanted to protect this little gift. Maybe I, in turn, placed it on my own high shelf to forget about it and protect it until I was ready to receive it and believe her love.
So mommy, thank you for the note. Thank you for all you did for me. I miss you.