A common kitchen item allowed me to punctuate a period of grieving my mother’s death
I took the plastic wrap from its place and began to pull a piece to stretch over my bowl of egg salad. End of the roll; not enough left.
I slid to the kitchen floor holding the empty green Kirkland box to my chest and began to weep. I gave in to the tears as they came and came, finally. I had taken this plastic wrap, a 750-foot roll from Costco, from my mother’s apartment a few weeks after she died of cancer at age 73. The goddamn thing lasted me nearly 12 years. It covered countless dishes and wormed its way into my story.
“I can’t believe you still have that,” my sister said.
“When the plastic wrap runs out, I’ll cry,” I said.
The truth is, I’ve grieved my mother’s passing in countless ways over the years. I miss her at random times, and I find comfort in random things. Sometimes I crave a good cry. It doesn’t come on command on her birthday, or Mother’s Day, or at the gravesite (which I hate visiting), but it doubles me over when I hear “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables.
Those who have lost a parent, a sibling, a spouse, know there’s no playbook for grief or what gives us comfort, if anything at all.
I’m lucky because my mother comes to me in my dreams. More often than not, she’s just there. She’s with me and my grandchild, whom she never met and would have adored beyond reason. She comes to me too in my very reflection as I age. The face that looks back at me is often her face, and it’s comforting. I’m never horrified at my aging countenance. She is in my hands, which jars my sister sometimes when she looks at them. “My God, you have her hands.”
I had a hard time when that plastic wrap finally ran out. As I had a hard time parting with a lot of her things, which I hoarded in the beginning, but let go little by little, over the years. Her coats were big on me but I wore them for a while. I wore boots of hers that I didn’t especially like, and I carried her bags. I still wear her summer seersucker robe; it wraps around me in a way I find comforting. I didn’t feel much affinity for most of her other belongings.
She was not a jewelry person (because she had no money), so I don’t have baubles, but I do have my mother’s antique glass-front bookcase. I share her love of reading, and I have her first copy of To Kill a Mockingbird held together with a rubber band. It was the first novel I taught when I became an English teacher at age 50, finishing what she started and could never finish because she was a widow with three small children, and had neither the time nor the funds for college.
My mother’s hands toss the empty plastic wrap into the trash as I mop up my face, blow my nose, and add plastic wrap to the grocery list.