When my mom was alive, I never truly related to most of her interests. Perhaps part of it was my desperate need to reject anything that might not be "cool enough". Maybe it was because I was scared of being like her and if I liked the same things that she liked, I was one step too close to being a miniature version of her. Or maybe I really honestly and truly wasn't interested in her stuff.
But now I am.
First I became interested in art and creating things... something that had always maintained an afterthought status in my mind. So, I started a nonprofit organization in her honor and as a tribute to her and what I would have liked to have seen her do as a mother, as a woman, as an artist. Now I'm decoupaging and painting and wishing desperately that I could comprehend how to use her sewing machine so that I could make some of these. And really appreciating the crocheted Annie, Smurfs, and ET dolls she made for me when I was a little girl... even if the only thing I have left of them are photos (not mine... but exactly like them).
Then I started to become interested in the Amish and Mennonites. Mama was always intrigued by these people who lived such simple lives and it never appealed to me. I liked my tv, computer, and other worldly connections WAY too much to ever find such archaic lifestyles attractive. Ironically, I find myself desiring this way of life, living off the grid, away from the man, away from worldly obsession more and more. Hearing my husband speak of being two years away from starting our move into a cooperative communal living situation is terribly attractive and leaves me sending up prayers of thanks to the God who blessed me with such a partner, though ten years ago, I would have never guessed us to be so compatible.
And finally, I've found myself becoming more and more interested in Appalachia as of late. Since Mama passed away, I've been researching her family tree and I have discovered that it's very likely that some of our ancestors originally lived in the hills of Appalachia. She always talked of feeling a connection, a kinship to the people in those mountains and, after becoming a huge Dwight Yoakam fan, became interested in learning all she could about the people in this region. I would listen but without much enthusiasm when she'd talk of another book she had read that was set in the mountains of Kentucky. I wanted so terribly to take her to visit the museum of Appalachia but sadly, she was too nervous to even consider such a trip. These days, I feel very drawn to visit Appalachia and have begun to investigate a "field" trip for next year. During my investigation of a possible trip, a friend sent me a link to this news special, which I watched with wonder and disgust. These people reminded me of some of my mom's relatives who made a choice to live in such dire poverty. I think I believe that I'll feel close to her if I visit... kinda the way people might visit a grave site. If only I had her ashes to take with me when I do go.
Yesterday I let myself begin to think about the fact that the anniversary of Mama's deathday is coming up. Next Saturday, February 28th, to be exact. The kids are finally old enough to start asking and understand about my mom. I know that I need to really remember her this year in a way that would have meaning to them.
My final decision, after considering a party (for a bunch of people who never met her), or a day of eating her favorite foods, buying her favorite flowers, or listening to her favorite music, I decided that she would better appreciate a service project done in her honor. This year we will be collecting dental supplies to send to the children in Appalachia via Kids First Dental. It seems that there is a giant epidemic of "Mountain Dew Mouth" in these hills. Mama had severe dental problems her entire life and eventually had all of her teeth pulled and replaced with dentures in her early 40's. I feel that this memorial is a perfect way to celebrate her life and her generous nature.
If you would like to donate some toothbrushes, toothpaste, or dental floss in my Mama's name, Joan Yvonne Cherry Ray, please leave a comment here and I'll get back to you about how you can participate.