“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou
Like the rising floodwaters covering the land surrounding my home in Tennessee, there is no control over emotions. We’d like to bottle them up. We’d like to put restraints and controls on our emotions. We want them only to come out when we want them to, or need them to. How often we hear, get a grip, or control yourself.
We build up walls and dams over our emotions, hoping against hope for control. We let the gates open from time to time and pray the dam does not break. I’ve had my dam break. It’s messy. People don’t like it. Even those that care about you often don’t know what to do when the dam of tears bursts unexpectedly.
I am sure there must be some psychological theory about holding back emotions. I’ve been on both sides of the therapist’s couch. It’s much easier to be on the giving side of that couch. To open your heart and deepest thoughts to another person, no matter how professional and trustworthy they may be, is terrifying.
My dam hasn’t broke this weekend, but it started leaking. There are cracks in the façade of Joyce the strong one. Like the persona of a rebel I crafted so well as a child, my adult persona is one of strength. I suppose I am strong. I had to be. I’m not as strong as I appear. Underneath is still a sad little girl.
Today that little girl is missing her mommy. Today is my mother’s 92nd birthday. My emotions are so close to the surface today. I am praying my dam doesn’t crack and break today. No one is here to console me. No one is here to absorb some of my pain. No one that is but this paper on which I write.
I have expected that grief would hit me at a time I didn’t expect. I suppose I should have expected that on my mother’s birthday, the first birthday since her passing, I would experience some emotion. The power of this emotion has caught me by surprise. I really miss her.
As a small child, my father would take me to the store. He would tell me we had to buy something for my mother. He wanted to teach me the beauty of gift giving. I would pick it out. He would pay for it. The message was clear. When it is your mother’s birthday, you honor her. My mother did likewise for my father.
On the heels of my mother’s birthday would come Mother’s Day and another trip to a store to buy something for her. It was good training. When I got older and got an allowance, I would use my own money to buy gifts.
When I was a child, we still wore corsages for special occasions. On a Sunday morning, a woman with a corsage on her dress or coat would signify she was special that day. On Easter, Christmas and Mother’s Day most of the women, had corsages. But on another day, the corsage said you were special, someone loved you very much.
There was a florist at the corner of 53rd and 5th Avenue in Brooklyn. In their window, they had a display of birthday corsages, one for each year up until age 18. I liked to look at them. They didn’t have flowers but items that spoke of each year of development. In horror now, I remember that at age 18, your corsage was made of cigarettes. You were old enough to smoke at 18. What a horrible message!
We moved from that neighborhood when I was 9 years old. Before we moved, I had saved up my allowance for my mother’s birthday and Mother’s day, 7 days apart. I went into that florist and ordered a corsage for my mother. I laid down my $5 ordering an orchid. Already I had learned the lesson from my father. I already knew that if I gave her the corsage for the Sunday closest to her birthday, stored in the refrigerator, she could also wear it on Mother’s Day.
A purple orchid - A simple corsage - My gift from my heart
My mother would tell me of a gift she received one year for Mother’s Day. Her favorite flower was lily of the valley. Perhaps using the same florist, one of my brothers gave her lily of the valley for Mother’s Day. The vase became sacred. I still have it. It is now sacred to me. I suppose to her it was like the mother coffee mugs I cherish.
If I could, I’d find lily of the valley today. If I could, I’d place some on her grave. If I could, I’d have some to look at today as I grieve the loss of my mother. I’d smell their distinctive delicate aroma. I’d think of my mother.
She is now joined with her mother, father, sisters, brothers, my dad, her great granddaughter Rukhsanah and other loved ones celebrating her first birthday in heaven.
Happy Birthday Elsie Mae