Recently, I had a Facebook Friend who said that she wanted to get through May as quickly as possible because she couldn’t stand the month. Mother’s Day in particular was the holiday she wanted to avoid. I guess the rest of us take for granted that this day is a happy event for everyone. I thought about it and it hit me that the day is indeed painful for children who have lost maternal figures and it is painful for maternal figures who have lost children. After thinking about it some more, I realized that this fifth month of the year is bittersweet for me as well, although it hasn’t always been that way. My parents’ birthdays are in May. Grandmama’s birthday is in May. I loved Memorial Day because that’s when my mom said I could wear white clothes. That, and smelling the salty, ocean air mixed with the scent of charcoal reminded me that summer was right around the corner. Kevin and I decided to get married Memorial Day Weekend. In fact, we’re about to celebrate our 11-year anniversary. These events are the sweet of May.
Here’s the bitter: While Cinco de Mayo may be celebration for a lot of people, unfortunately for me it is the anniversary of the day I lost my grandmama. I am grateful that she was able to live a full life, but I still miss her. There are stories that I want to hear again. There are questions that I still want to ask. Yet, I am thankful that one of my sons got to know her and have his own memories. The other has never met her but shares her love of The Wheel of Fortune, which was what she was watching the last time that I saw her. I always talk about that. I always talk about Grandmama and no one seems to mind. They even have their own stories to share.
Then there’s the worst bitter: I lost my cousin in May. On Memorial Day Weekend. 11 Years ago. Perhaps I am wrong for discussing her now, the day after Mother’s Day when her mother misses her and when her daughter wishes she were around. However, her sudden departure from this earthly life affects me very deeply because we spent so much of our childhood through our teenaged years together. We visited each other when our families lived in New Jersey. After we all relocated to Hilton Head, we went to school together. We had the typical relationship of young girls. Most times we got along, sometimes we didn’t, but I knew her. If her daughter were to ask me, I have my own stories growing up with her mom. Like I know how she got that scar on her arm – the one that required stitches. And who do you think I fought with to shell the lima beans at Grandmama’s stand? We spent a lot of time on that couch in the Palmetto House. Then there was the extra-large makeup case that she used to take to school with her. Eventually it would end up in a tree along with our clothes and shoes after our football rivals from Jasper County became sore losers and raided the band bus. We wore colored flat shoes that matched our outfits. My prized New Edition poster came from her. We suffered through Ms. Jones English class together in High School (I don’t know about her, but she did me a huge favor being so tough on us). We All that Jazzed in the school show choir. We threw down to I’m Bad in band. After high school we had gone our separate ways and pretty much lived our own lives. Eventually as adults, we would find our way back into our friendship especially since we lived in the same city. I caught her bouquet at her wedding. My cousin came to my engagement party while her daughter was still growing in her belly. And I spoke to her on the phone the week before she passed. She wished me well and we promised to stay in touch with each other. That conversation still stays with me because in spite of everything, I am glad that I had that last opportunity to talk to her.
My blog is mainly recalling memories of growing up on Hilton Head and keeping those stories alive. We talk about my grandmama because she experienced so much during her lifetime. We don’t talk about my cousin though, although she made her own impact. She holds the distinction of being the first and only lawyer in the family. That’s quite an accomplishment seeing that most of our family were educators. She was also the first drum major in the family. I have another cousin who followed in her footsteps and is now a band director. I wonder how many of the young people in our family know that.
Maybe my cousin is hard to talk about because she was taken from us so suddenly. Unlike Grandmama, there was so much of her life that seemed unfinished but there are parts worth remembering and telling. Maybe as a family we can get to that point where it isn’t as painful to tell the stories. Until then, we’ll just white knuckle it through May, celebrating the parts that are sweet, like my anniversary and birthdays, and count the days until the arrival of June. As for me, I know how important it is to keep my cousin’s story alive, and we can’t do that if we don’t talk about her. Maybe it will make May a little less painful and we can start to enjoy the month again. Also, I firmly believe that she is in Heaven and when she’s not peeking in on us, she’s living in Glory with her husband. She’s sharing stories with our grandparents and her aunt. And she’s shelling beans with Grandmama…keeping those lima beans to herself ;).