It’s Mother’s Day, which is a day I normally try to ignore. But, on some level, I feel empowered around this time of year. It’s nearly impossible to offend me 1literally the only thing that offends me is when people use their religious/spiritual beliefs to try and tell me what my deceased mother is doing in ...continue, but the first Mother’s Day after my mom died, all the emails and TV ads about “do something special for your mother this year” nearly made me cry every time. I had to ignore that and power through because it’s not their fault my mom is dead, and when she was still alive I actually appreciated those reminders ahead of time. Kind of an analogy for comedy and people being offended by certain jokes : it’s not the fault of the comedian that you’re going through whatever you’re going through.
That rant aside, here’s a few short stories about my mother.
My mother was a kind of Martha Stewart. Just crazy with the arts & crafts, spending hours, days, weeks on projects that no one ever saw outside of our home. She even made little 3-foot-tall clown dolls for me and my sister every year in the summer; so when watching Poltergeist, the clown doll scenes that should’ve freaked us the fuck out were like “hey mom! that’s like your dolls!”. Maybe that’s why I think clown fears are silly — they just make me think of my mom’s little clown dolls that were scattered throughout my childhood rooms.
Since she was born on Christmas Day, she took a great deal of pride and care in making Christmas the Greatest Thing Ever for me and and my sister. I mean it was a whole production — my parents setup the gifts around the tree while we slept, and it looked like a store display 2I actually talked about this with my dad on the podcast I used to do with him. It’s available here, at exactly 22:05 into the podcast. About a month prior to Christmas, she’d start in on various Christmas projects : a Frosty the Snowman wall decoration where turning his nose would wind up a music box that played his theme song; a Santa wall decor that — when you pulled his satchel — would shake his arms and the bells he was holding would ring; miniature models of Santa’s reindeer; hand-knit sweaters, and quilts.
One year, when I must’ve been about 8 years old, she made these little miniature Santa dolls. My dad thought they were so impressive that he — whose professional job was to sell new items to retail outlets — brought one of the dolls to a seasonal Christmas store. He said “my wife makes these, and I think they’d be a big hit in your store”. They inspected the workmanship, and inquired about price and output. My dad set a price on the dolls at, I think, $50 a piece 3that’s about $115 in today’s dollars. The store was going to sell them for $80 each, making them a nice little profit. They wanted 40 of them.
My mom, a teacher and mother of 2, spent most of November and the first half of December pumping out these Santa dolls. In the end, she not only made the 40 that were ordered, but another 2 of them for my sister and I since that’s why she was making them in the first place.
My mom was a very busy woman, at all times in my life. When I was a child, it was teaching and running a drama camp and working at an arts & crafts store and running a little arts & crafts workshop for older women out of our house and raising 2 kids. When I was in high school, it was teaching and producing plays and getting her Master’s Degree and spending time with what was later my step-dad and trying to keep me from getting out of line. She just never didn’t have several projects going on at once 4which explains a lot about how I am with all my projects, I guess.
She had this friend of hers, a former co-worker from her days working at the arts & crafts store, that I never understood. His name was Ken and when they met he’d have been in his 20s, and he had a long-term girlfriend. He was cool with me, and he was an amazing illustrator and later became graphic design guru. I even went to his wedding, when he married the aforementioned long-term girlfriend 5which, I’ll never forget was the day after Anton LaVey died, since LaVey died on my 19th birthday. For whatever reason, he took an interest in me from a friendly standpoint and would give me comic books or CDs from his favorite bands, and even gave me the Star Wars trilogy on VHS. There was absolutely nothing creepy about this dude, and he did almost nothing wrong throughout my life, and I’ve no reason to think he and my mom had anything but a genuine friendship — hence why adult Mitcz is confused by why they were friends. That said, he did narc me out to my mom about the fact that I smoked.
I remember her coming home one day, furious. She knocked on my door and said “we need to have a conversation, mister!”. She said she knew I’d been smoking, and asked how long it’d been going on. I didn’t even answer before she screamed at the top of her lungs “GodDAMNIT Mitchell you shouldn’t smoke! I don’t want you smoking!”. Because she was such a busy woman, she didn’t have time to lecture me. The only other thing she said after that was “NOW LISTEN HERE…” and I expected her to say “you’re grounded” or “you’re gonna quit”, but instead her anti-smoking lecture was exactly this : “you better NOT smoke in the house, and I’m NOT buying your cigarettes! I have to get back to the school cause I have a play to finish”.
About 6 months later, long after my sister had moved out and my step-sister had moved in, my mom wanted to spend some time with me. We rarely got chances to bond, since she’d always been very close with my sister and was now with a new soon-to-be-husband and had her hands full with the human pile of garbage that was his daughter, she just wanted the two of us to hang out and bond for a change. We hopped in the car and drove to Sedona, AZ — a remote, relaxed area off in the woods about 90 mins outside of Phoenix — and checked us into a bed & breakfast. She wanted to get some hot chocolate and a book to read, so we went to the store before unpacking our bags. While there, she said “…and you probably need cigarettes?”, buying me a pack and breaking one of her rules 6she never broke the “don’t smoke in the house” rule, but I never challenged that since it would be insane to assume she’d be ...continue. When we got back to the room, we just hung out in this awesome little cottage and talked about life and the past and the future. We talked about her, and what she was going through, and had gone through. I understood so much more about who she was as a person. It was really therapeutic for us.
I was a little embarrassed to think, or ever even talk, about that weekend — and I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone else about it until now — but my mom treasured that weekend. Whenever she brought it up, I’d brush off like “yeah yeah… that was a good time. Anyway…” and change the subject. I wish I’d have swallowed my pride and just told her how that weekend forever changed how I thought of all that she had to go through to raise us kids.
The last Christmas I spent with my mom was a strange one. We all kinda knew she wouldn’t see another Christmas, but it was surreal to think this woman who was still laughing and running around and working on her projects and havin’ a good ol’ time would somehow cease to be within a year. That was the diagnosis, but it just didn’t seem real. For the first time in my life, I made the 13 hour drive out to Colorado, instead of taking a flight, and brought along my girlfriend at the time. I’d never before taken anyone to my mom’s ranch.
We had a great time on the ranch, sledding down the hill, riding horses, chillin’ by the fire. My girlfriend and my mom got along really well, and — though my girlfriend and I were together for a few years but didn’t “go the distance” — I’ll always appreciate that she made the decision to walk up the hill on my mom’s ranch to sled down one more time. Her words at the time were “you said this might be your mom’s last Christmas. We should sled down a second time because we’ll probably never get this chance again”. Despite the freezing-ass cold weather, and how deep the snow was, and how difficult it was to make our way back up that hill, she was right. It was both worth it, and the last time I ever got that chance 7my step-dad sold the property a few months after my mom died, and disappeared into another country with his new wife, which is another story for ...continue.
My mom had gotten into scrapbooking in her final years. She had so many photos and keepsakes throughout her life that putting together these intricate scrapbooks was easy and enjoyable for her. When we talked on the phone and she’d ramble on about all the little tools and techniques she had for these scrapbooks, I didn’t really understand why it was so special to her. She even went to some scrapbooking convention about 2 years before she passed, and I met some of her scrapbooking friends at her funeral.
On Christmas Day, my girlfriend pulled me aside and said “I know what your mom got you for Christmas, and I want you to know it’s okay to cry”. It was such an ominous statement, I thought she was kidding. I hadn’t cried since I was 13 years old, and this woman I was with had never even seen me get angry — much less upset to the point of crying.
My mom handed me my gift, and sat next to me, arm around me. My stepdad was filming 8I’m sorry I didn’t include the footage, it’s not out of embarrassment but out of not remembering where I would’ve saved that ...continue. When I unwrapped it, I was staring at a giant scrapbook binder, with my name 9ironically riddled with glitter, but the spine is plastic-wrapped so that glitter is still contained spelled Mitcz 10which is not my birth name but my own weird spelling I made up in high school, in case you were wondering and a photo of me with my mohawk that my mother-in-law shot on Christmas years ago. In that moment, I thought “holy shit… mom gets me”. She didn’t try to pretend I wasn’t some name-changing, mohawk-wearing, pierced-up weirdo that I’ve long tried to present myself as. The cover alone said “hey, I get it. Here’s a book just for you”. I was a bit nervous. My girlfriend was sitting to my right, nearly crying, my mom was sitting on my left, smiling, and my step-dad was filming me. I thought “oh shit, how do I pretend I’m excited about a scrapbook?”. When I opened the binder, the first two pages showed my baby photos, and a snippet from the local newspaper, and my footprints, and the placard they placed on my crib at the hospital, and a little story my mom wrote about how the nurses argued for hours about the time I was born since it was just after daylight-savings time clicked in.
I don’t know how my girlfriend knew it would knock me on my ass, but it did. Page after page of photos I’d never seen, moments I barely remembered, snippets of my life that I thought only I knew about, or cared about. She even included a photo she took of me in the last room I had before my first apartment, happy as could be, with the caption “Mitcz finally gets the big room”, referencing how my sister always got the big room growing up. She even filled a pocket in the back of the binder with every report card and teacher’s report and award I’d ever gotten. This was not only the story of my life, but a sign that — all along — my mom knew who I was, what was important to me, and it’s like she’d spent 29 years collecting keepsakes for this very moment.
To say I broke down and cried like a baby would be an understatement. To this day, I can’t even open that binder without breaking down in tears 11In fact, while writing this story, I had to open it to remember what was on that first page and ended up crying for about 10 minutes. That was not only the last Christmas present she ever gave me, but the greatest one I’ll ever get. And all the money in the world wouldn’t have bought it.
If your mom is still alive, I suggest you give her a call. One day, you won’t be able to anymore and you very well might — like me — wish you could trade in everything you own to still be able to make that call.
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↩||literally the only thing that offends me is when people use their religious/spiritual beliefs to try and tell me what my deceased mother is doing in the afterlife|
|2.||↩||I actually talked about this with my dad on the podcast I used to do with him. It’s available here, at exactly 22:05 into the podcast|
|3.||↩||that’s about $115 in today’s dollars|
|4.||↩||which explains a lot about how I am with all my projects, I guess|
|5.||↩||which, I’ll never forget was the day after Anton LaVey died, since LaVey died on my 19th birthday|
|6.||↩||she never broke the “don’t smoke in the house” rule, but I never challenged that since it would be insane to assume she’d be okay with that|
|7.||↩||my step-dad sold the property a few months after my mom died, and disappeared into another country with his new wife, which is another story for another time|
|8.||↩||I’m sorry I didn’t include the footage, it’s not out of embarrassment but out of not remembering where I would’ve saved that footage|
|9.||↩||ironically riddled with glitter, but the spine is plastic-wrapped so that glitter is still contained|
|10.||↩||which is not my birth name but my own weird spelling I made up in high school, in case you were wondering|
|11.||↩||In fact, while writing this story, I had to open it to remember what was on that first page and ended up crying for about 10 minutes|