To My Mother, On Her Birthday
First, let's be honest - I cried straight through this layout. It is difficult, and I am sure that is no surprise, to be so far from my mother while she fights this illness, and it is even more difficult, as I am sure once again it is no surprise, to be far from her as she celebrates another year of life. Birthdays seem different when life feels more fragile than before.
This layout contains a letter I wrote to her, but wanted to send with a bit more flourish than simply pen and ink on paper. Beyond the words, there's so little to the design, just a few large alphas and an almost full page image. For a woman who doesn't like a lot of fuss, but who still loves beautiful, simple things, I knew that the page needed no more and no less than this.
The one touch I knew it needed was a few stitches, this time only to affix the vellum journaling to the photo, but a nod to my mother's love of making, a generation of women who use their hands to sew, knit, cut, glue, tape, and build their way to a life full of handmade beauty.
If you were here, I’d give you snapdragons just like these, and we’d have a tea party like when I was little, and I’d listen to all your grand plans because you always have grand plans. If you were here, I’d remind you that you look nowhere near your age in numbers, and that even though treatment has robbed you of so much, it has yet to capture your spirit, and I doubt it ever will – you’re much too feisty for that, a power no illness can match. If you were here, I would tell you in person about how wonderful and scary these last few weeks have been as I open myself up to new adventures, and how every time I look down at my hands as I make something new, I see your hands, Grandma Bess’s hands, Michelle’s hands, and I know I am doing what I am supposed to do. We are makers, women who craft and create and curate our lives with the scraps we wrestle from the world around us. If you were here I would give you this stack of clothes I’ve been meaning to send, and you would tell me once more that your closet is made up of all my old clothes, and I would look at you, so much skinnier than I am used to, still, and I would be glad that some part of your comfort would come from something that once comforted me. If you were here, we’d eat chocolate cake, even after your birthday was over, and we’d laugh about how much we ate after we swore we would eat no more. If you were here, we’d watch ridiculous movies, rationalizing loudly with the character’s poor choices, but we would love them just the same. If you were here, I would tell you that I wish we were closer, but I know we are both where we need to be. If you were here, I would cry and you would cry, I would laugh and you would laugh, and in the middle of all that we would remember that no amount of miles could ever diminish the love of a mother and a daughter, so very different, and so very much the same. If you were here, I would say Happy Birthday with a hug, but instead, with the reality of miles that will continue to span the space between us, all I have to offer you is a collection of these words, a bouquet of lines meant only to say I love you, and I am made better each day because of what you, as my mother, taught me with your actions and your words. Happy Birthday to the only woman who can balance the mouth of a sailor with the heart of saint, and who still makes the very best apple pie of all time.
Happy 55th, mom!