October 15, 2020

Let Mom Paint your Toenails when you’re Pregnant (& other things I learned when Mimi passed away).

Author’s note: My mother, Mimi, passed away from COVID-19 related complications in August. Her birthday would have been this month. This is my tribute to her.

“Oh look, there’s another ‘blogger’ telling us all about how sh*tty 2020 has been for everyone.”

Nope. Not me.

What I will talk about; however, are the lessons I’ve had the privilege of learning.

In particular what I’ve learned (thus far) from the passing of my mother on August 19th, 2020.

I always felt like I had to be a tough guy around my mother. It was an odd feeling. One that was simply uncontrollable. I’m sure there was a long, historical explanation as to why I felt this way when she was around me, but the best way I can describe it is that I always felt the need for her to know that I was not vulnerable or weak, and that I could take care of myself.

Maybe, in a way, I felt I always had to reassure her that I was safe since she always worried so much about me. All. The. Time.

As all women know, it’s inherent that when you become a mother, immediately, you worry.

From the time that pregnancy test is positive until the day you die, you just f*cking worry. That’s motherhood in one word: worry. (Actually, if you could give me two words, they would be: worrying and packing. It seems that’s all you ever do is worry or pack/unpack. All day long. When you’re not worrying, you’re packing. Period. That’s it. Pure Magic, really.)

Anyway, Mimi was a star. She still is. I see her in the moon and in the sky and she’s always sparkly.

Her makeup was always flawless, her hair perfectly in place, not a trace of the wild woman she had been in her youth was on the outside, but invite her to a party and she’s there. Martini in hand, grinning, and telling the most ridiculous jokes and telling them wrong. Always wrong. Always leaking the punchline before it was time. But people absolutely adored her and she absolutely adored people.

It’s hard to put into words what your own mother was like after her death. There are certain feelings associated with the matriarch that simply cannot be written in any language. They are tumultuous and confrontational and tough and beautiful and weak. And even through all those very personal, very individual feelings, there is one shared feeling, for the most part, and it’s the feeling of being tethered to the existence of love through this one person.

She was absolutely my tether, in ways I never realized until she was gone.

I can’t tell you how many times my mother offered to paint my toenails when I was pregnant with both of my children. It was actions like these that she was so very good at thinking about. She knew things that no one knew about me, and not because I told her. It was just that she knew. And she knew that it was absolutely, ridiculously impossible for me to paint my own toenails while I was eight months pregnant. Especially when I was pregnant with my second child during a global pandemic—COVID-19, have you heard about it?—and all nail salons were closed, gasp!

Here’s the problem: I was absolutely so concerned with being a hard-ass around her that I refused her offer. And now I’m kinda pissed about it. If I would have known she would be gone two months after my second child was born, I would have let her paint my toenails every single day until I gave birth. I would have let her even do a French manicure (her signature, and my last choice in nail color ever).

And it’s not just the toenails.

She had this thing when I was single and surfing and living on granola bars and craft beer where she was afraid I’d be hungry. So every time she would come over to my condo, she’d bring a loaf of bread. She’d say: “Lali, just put it in the freezer and you’ll never be hungry if you have bread.”

When I moved out I had a freezer full of bread I never ate. When we cleaned out her condo after she passed away, there was a freezer full of bread.

And I should have eaten the f*cking bread.

And I should have let her paint my damn toenails.

And the basic, most cliché moral of the story is never ever take anything for granted. Never.

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Ali Gorton  |  Contribution: 2,065

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