Last night as I sat down on my big purple chair in the center of my studio, I felt a something wash over me and whispered to myself, “I am happy.” I didn’t mean just in that moment, but in my life…I am happy. Sure I have my struggles and days when I could kick the sidewalk, but life feels beautiful on a regular basis.
Now, that hasn’t always been the case. When I was 21, my life took a very unexpected turn, and out of the blue, I lost my mom. She died two months before I was to be married, so my big celebration turned into a rollercoaster ride I couldn’t figure out how to get off of for a very long time.
The last day I spent with my mom was amazing. We got one of those days that you might create if you KNEW it was your last day together! We went shopping… all over town. I don’t remember buying much. In fact, I felt like I walked away from our day of shopping actually RICHER than I did when we left.
First place we headed to was a strip of antique shops packed full of other people’s memories and a few items that reminded Momma of her days growing up. She told me stories of our family, fleshing out her life in a ways I had never heard before. As we left the last shop, she stopped and bought an old skeleton key. She asked the man behind the counter to put it on a ribbon, and she slipped it around my neck. It hung down, just over my heart. I still wear it often.
From there, we headed to the mall. We had a Foley’s back then and Foley’s was having a sale. Up and down the elevators, we explored each of the three floors. At the top, we found the furniture section, and exhausted, we collapsed on a huge couch dressed with tapestry pillows. It was the most beautiful couch I have ever seen. Even to this day, I hold other couches up to its standard and have yet to find one to surpass it.
We sat there, talking of my upcoming marriage, of keeping a good home, and daydreaming about her coming to visit me in the afternoons. Maybe someday, she said, you will have a couch like this, and I will come every afternoon and drink tea with you and chat about our days. My fiancé and I were buying a condo a mile down the road from her. I knew we would see each other often…a fact I took much comfort in because I still didn’t know how to make gravy or cut up a chicken…or a thousand other things I thought a wife should know. I had a lot of learning to do. And her desire to come over to see me felt reassuring.
Our day ended with a trip to the candy store. Mom bought Jelly Belly‘s and on the ride home, we took turns guessing the flavors. We laughed and dreamed and enjoyed one another…and life.
The next morning I went off to babysit some friends’ kiddos. I got the call mid-day. It wasn’t good. Life took that turn. And on September 2nd, 1990, after three weeks of struggling in the hospital, Momma passed away. I was 21 then…and if you do the math, you’ll see that today is 21 years later. Tomorrow I will have lived longer without her than I did with her.
It’s a dramatic thought, I know. And I could get all lost in it, but honestly the distance is soothing. It took me a long time to figure out how to be happy without her. But, let me tell you, I am figuring it out! I would much rather be here today then at 22 or 32! At 42, life is good…because I am making it good.
This blogsite is all about having a creative life…and to me that means MAKING LIFE! So… get ready for the next turn around. The story has a happy ending, friends.
You see, sometimes, I find that opportunities come my way that remind me of how precious life is. My husband sometimes draws little connect-the-dot graphs he calls synchronicity maps, showing how one thing led to another and how they all relate. Today’s blog is really about that. My map could go all the way back to my birth…but I won’t put you through that.
Let’s start here…
Let me just say that, as some of you have read, I have been preparing for an art challenge. Kathleen Conrad, over at New Creations is hosting a Tea Bag Challenge in which she has invited artists to create something with tea bags or the envelops they come in. I thought it was so much fun!
As I prepared for it, I was suddenly struck with that memory of me and mom on that couch. But not just that. You see that memory was so powerful for me, that I have used it to memorialize my mom. Each year on this day, now for 21 years, I have sat with a friend offered them a cup of tea and told them the story of our last day together.
Today, I am sharing my 21st cup of tea with YOU.
This cup forms the base of an art doll I created over the last couple of weeks to honor my mom. It has a skirt made of 21 red zinger hibiscus tea bags (the pink color comes from the tea, to gold, I added). The tea bag in the center of the cup is black tea…the kind mom made sun tea out of in the Summer. The gold and pearls are to help remind me to treasure the present moment as much as I do the past. The tag of the tea bag has been made into a tiny heart shaped journal. It is blank to remind me that my future is wide open and not strictly defined by my past…but certainly influenced by it.
The doll is constructed of wire (one of my favorite mediums to work with). Her face is a watch, altered with a drawing. The drawing looks more like me than it does her, but I am okay with that…reminds me that we are much alike. Hanging inside her chest is a glass vile filled with garnets and a note that reads love. And in her hands, she holds a nest with three eggs representing to me the three phases of womanhood. As I move through each phase, I not only learn about myself, but learn more about my mother. Kind of magical.
The doll makes me so very happy and helps make this day extra special. My mom was the first artist I ever knew. She painted oil landscapes and taught me the importance of engaging the creative. I don’t know who I would be without having had her influence in my life. Luckily, I don’t have to figure that out.
As synchronicity would have it, this morning a new blogger friend, Brandy, posted a beautiful story about her mother and asked others to offer a story of gratitude. Easy for me today. That is really what this post is about. Gratitude for my mom and what she gave me, gratitude for invitations to create (like the ones Kathleen and Brandy are offering), and gratitude towards myself for being willing to create a beautiful life.
I hope your day is filled with gratitude. Searching for what is going right…even (and especially) in the midst of things going wrong is such a powerful tool for healing our spirits. Honor my mom with me and share my cup of gratitude by posting what it is YOU are grateful for today…I would consider it a gift.
To see more images (including close ups) of my Tea Bag Momma, head over to my Facebook Page. To see what other’s are doing with their tea bags, you can visit Kathleen’s site for details….she starts posting those tomorrow.