Christmas of 2009 I was very pregnant with our first child. On Christmas day my husband handed me a box to open. I opened it and inside was a bag. A very cute bag that he bought for me to pack my things for the hospital for when the ‘big moment’ arrived. As I opened the bag and checked out its pockets and straps, I was suddenly flooded with a memory:
I was 12 years old and our 8th grade was preparing for our class trip to Washington DC. It was a very big deal because we got to sleep over. All of the kids were very excited. My mother very-much wanted to buy me a set of luggage for this trip, but it was the last thing I wanted to do. My Mom was dying of cancer. At this stage of her disease she could go any day and as excited as all my friends were for this trip, I could have cared less. I didn’t want to leave my Mom. I wanted to stay home and I most certainly didn’t want her to buy me luggage. I thought that would be SO uncool; none of my friends were packing their things in ‘luggage’. They would just throw their things in a bag. I think what I was really thinking was: none of my friends would be leaving behind their dying mother.
I remember specifically one night my Mom was on ‘her end’ of the sofa with her feet up reading the paper, with the TV on. I peeked over the stairway to her, stared at my feet and said, “Mom, I really don’t want to go.” And she said, “Samantha, you are going – you’re not going to miss this trip.” I went to my room and cried. All I could think of was that when I was gone she would die and I would miss her. But my Mom would not let me miss this trip.
As the class trip got closer, my Mom decided she felt strong enough to come to help pick out my luggage. I made the adolescent decision to not enjoy myself or to like any piece of luggage. I was going to be difficult to say the very least. We walked into a store named Epstein’s and my mom said to “pick whatever I liked.” I said I liked ‘nothing.’ My Mom was very patient. She never once got mad at me or told me how ungrateful or uncooperative I was acting. She was her loving-self. She let me sulk and roll my eyes. She found a set of luggage that was brown and green that she really liked. I said “whatever” and my Mom bought the set. I decided that I hated that luggage and I hated I had to go on this trip. I was so scared.
My Mom helped me pack my bags and even came to drop me off to leave that early morning of the trip. I sat in the car and said I didn’t want to get out and that I didn’t want to bring my luggage. I said to her that I saw what the other kids had I was so embarrassed. What I was really thinking and feeling was, “I don’t want to leave you and I don’t want to lose you.” Without a missing a beat, she kissed me, told me how much she loved me and said, ‘you’re not going to miss this trip.” She didn’t leave until she saw me get on the bus and pull away.
The whole way to Washington DC, on the bus, I was quiet. To this day I remember very little about Washington DC. I can’t remember one thing I saw there, but I remember the luggage and I remember just wanting to come home.
The trip was soon over and we made our way back home. As the bus got closer to our school I thought I would be sick. Would she be there to pick me up? I made sure I sat in a window-seat and sure enough as we got closer I saw her car. All of my friends were so sad the trip was over, I was so happy to be home. I couldn’t get in the car fast enough. As a kid, you don’t know how to articulate the things you are really thinking and feeling. I really wanted to throw my arms around her and say “I am so happy to be home! I am so happy you’re still alive! I missed you so much!” Instead, I got into the car as fast as I could without saying goodbye to my friends and got very quiet. She was SO happy to see me and wanted to hear all about the trip. She would ask questions and like a bratty 12 year old, I responded with one word answers. I don’t believe I ever said thank you for the luggage. I didn’t tell her how much I missed her and I never told her how happy I was to see her. Moments lost in adolescent ignorance.
A week later, on a Friday night, I was at my brother’s high school football game. It started to snow flurry and I became so sad at the sight of it. I wanted to close my eyes and make it go away. Deep down I knew what would happen that night. My Mom told us that all she wanted to see before she died was snow. My Mom had a fall a couple days before the game and was in the hospital not doing well. Late that very night, after everything, and the snow, had settled, my Mom passed away.
My life after my Mom’s death was a blur. Although there were both good and bad times, I don’t’ believe I really started to feel real happiness until I met my husband, I was married and I became pregnant with our first child. Prior to this, I had defined my life by: my life before and my life after my Mom died. Getting pregnant did not come easy. After a year of trying we found out, on what would have been my Mom’s 66th birthday, that I was pregnant. My Dr. said we conceived on Mother’s Day weekend. I couldn’t help but feel that she was looking out for us.
As the reality of the pregnancy set in I became so worried, “would I be a good Mom?” and “would I know what to do?” I soon found myself missing my Mom more than ever. I longed to talk to her and to have her prepare me for this journey. We found out during an ultrasound that we were having a little girl. We decided to name her after my Mom, Audrey. And gave her the middle name, Hope. As she was our Hope for our future. I placed a picture of my Mom holding me as a baby in the nursery, over the crib, so my baby would have my Mom as her guardian angel.
As I took a deep breath and swallowed the memory of my Mom away, I sat and looked at the luggage my husband bought for me. I realized that he too was preparing me for a new journey in my life. My Mom knew she would not be around much longer and wanted me to have something that I could remember her by, something that each time I used I could think of her. She knew that she was really preparing me for the trip of my life, not the class trip. She knew that from that moment on my 12 year old life would never be the same. My husband unknowingly did the same. Now whenever I look at that bag he got me I would think of him and our life before and our life after having children. He knew I was scared, that I was afraid of the delivery and afraid of the unknown. And yet, just like my Mom, he knew it would all be okay. He said to me, with that gift, just like my Mom, “you’re not going to miss this trip.”
Fast forward to the March 2012: I now have two beautiful little girls. Although they are only 3 and 1, I was nervous as this was their very first day of ‘school.’ Prior to this, they went to a daycare; however, this was their first structured setting. I went out of my way to make this special by doing what I knew best: buying them both special bags. I learned by example that I was now in the position to care for my daughters as I was cared for and to prepare them for this special journey in their life. I made sure they each got a special bag and took lots of pictures of them on their ‘first day’. They don’t’ know it yet, but their Mommy loves them more than anything. Their Mommy now feels happiness again. Their Mommy now defines her life as before I had children and after I had these two wonderful daughters. They are a blessing, a reminder of life and a reminder of my Mom. I, too, will learn from my Mom’s teachings and try my best to be patient, loving and kind and most importantly help them prepare for important journeys in their lives. I too will tell them, that they will not miss this trip called life.