Remembering Mom, Ice Cream & Happier Things

This photograph was taken on January 20, 2009. Though I'd lived in Washington DC for more than a decade, I'd never felt such cold. The record books claim that it was a high of 30 degrees that day, but it was 19 degrees when my mom and I arose at 4 am to head to the National Mall for the presidential inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. It's one of my favorite photographs with my mom mostly because I don't have many.

Take the Selfies

Neither of us knew at the time that my mom had a rare brain tumor. It was an exhausting day of eight hours of standing in multiple layers of clothes and charcoal activated warmers in our boots and mittens. I often think back about how fortunate we were that my mom made it through the day. My mom died in 2011, before everyone was snapping daily selfies on cell phones. I can say now for certain, that you should take the selfies. Take more photos. I also don't have videos. Record videos. Record the voices of your loved ones. Store them in the cloud. When I was young, I used to complain that my father always had his video camera running. To be honest, he wasn't always the best at selecting the most appropriate moments. Too bad now that all those videos are on VHS tape! Record videos of hugs and surprises. Spring for the videographer for your wedding (I didn't think we needed one). Take the time to stop, quiet yourself, breath in and focus on not forgetting life's most important moments, which really consist of every moment. Revisit them frequently. Write about them. These are just the things I've learned. Savor the moments like ice cream.

Why I Celebrate March 11

I celebrate today, March 11, for two reasons. First, today happens to be the 9-year anniversary of the day a friend helped me packed up my Acura TSX (I was hopping on one foot because I was recovering from surgery on my ankle), and I hit the road for Nashville. My mom had died of the brain tumor three months earlier in December, and my surgery was the following February. I signed a lease on a studio apartment while sitting on the sofa surfing the internet, dazed and somewhat depressed. My decision was made: I needed to see what else could happen in my life, beyond DC. I had no idea what I was going to do when I arrived in Nashville, but the 10-hour drive was therapeutic. I was only living one day at a time, so I'd figure it out from there. The drive alone was worth it.

I pulled into the third-floor parking garage of my new place and started to unload furniture. Ankle throbbing, I recall tearing up as I dragged furniture down the long hallways of my new apartment building, piece by piece. I was sad about my mom. I was sad about my ankle. I felt pretty alone. But I was also excited.

My life today couldn't draw more of a contrast from my life before in DC. I was starting life over from a different state of consciousness. With the exception of my closest friends, the things in DC that mattered before no longer mattered to me. The things that I soon discovered became my everything.

In my rush to leave town, I hadn't even realized - until half-way into the drive - that it was March 11, my mom's birthday. This is my second reason for celebrating today. Because I had two occasions to celebrate, I decided to celebrate in two ways. First, I took a moment to say a prayer of gratitude for my mother's life, her influence and all of the goodness that's come through her to me. Second, I enjoyed a tiny bit of each of the six pints of small batch, handcrafted ice cream that I ordered from Clementine's Creamery. Ice cream was one of my mom's favorite things.

So, happy heavenly birthday to my mom, and thank you God for the opportunity to honor and remember the small things. I could choose to be sad about her life and the things I could not change. I could choose to lament that I only have a few photos of us together as adults. I could choose to focus on regret over memories that have faded. But for me, there's been enough time for sadness. I choose to always remember my mom and associate her, not with sickness and sadness, but with the fun times and happier things.

Happy Birthday Mom! I love you. I miss you, and thank you for the ice cream.


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© 2021 by Shai Littlejohn