There is a purse that sits in a makeshift shrine in my bedroom that used to belong to my mother. Its contents are sentimental. There is a travel-size container of hand lotion she religiously applied, and several tubes of pale lipstick that complimented her thin lips and pale complexion. She also kept an address list tucked inside, handy for her unexpected visits to friends and family. On the tattered sheets were handwritten edits — new phone numbers, emails and addresses — a log roll of the people she loved.
Throughout my life, my mother talked to me about various friends and co-workers that I didn’t know. Irritated, I would interrupt her, “Mom! I don’t know who you’re talking about!” I knew even then, I’d regret those words. Wasn’t I the one who reminded her to be kind to her own mother? Telling her that grandma would be gone one day. Yet she is still alive. It’s my mother who is gone.
It’s been over three years and I still have her purse. The purse I couldn’t let go of after her sudden death. I carried it from her home to my car, to the funeral home, and while shopping for the clothes she would be buried in — ultimately taking it home with me.
When I look at her purse, I am reminded of the summer day she lovingly pushed my sister in a stroller while I walked beside her, listening to the wheels ticking rhythmically over the sidewalk. I remember her breastfeeding my two younger siblings and boiling their cloth diapers so they wouldn’t get a diaper rash. But I also remember her crying while my father was at work. She felt stifled by staying home alone. How she longed to go out into the world and socialize. (I suspect some of her tears were due to raising three headstrong, highly creative, guiltless children.)
Today, I remember my mother with love. That strange, intertwining emotion that she and I shared as we pushed each other’s emotional buttons, and fought and made up. How I wish I could send her flowers today, then she would call me to say, “Thank you! They’re beautiful!” and immediately begin telling me stories about people I don’t know.