The first birthday after

Friday, April 1, 2022

 Today was your birthday. You would have turned 70. We sometimes spoke about your setentanera. "Mija, if it is God’s will..."

This is the first birthday without you. I knew it would be a hard one. I had no idea just how hard.

Momma, you’d be so proud of me! I earned that promotion I told you about. I have a seat at the figurative table…the one I told you about…the one I dreamed about. I told you I was gonna change the world and no one would know about it and that was ok. I’m doing it, Momma. I just returned from London a couple of days ago. This is my third trip to the UK in the past 4 months. I will be going again very soon.  India is on the horizon. I already hear your voice proudly expressing, “wooooow! You go girl! Good job mija” followed by that special whistle.

You said if I ever made it over to England you wanted to go with me. I settled with taking a photo of you imprinted on a button that I affixed to my new camel colored trench coat. “Mija, did you buy the shoes? You always buy the nice shoes for work.” Not yet. I haven’t gotten them, but I will. I can’t wait to tell you all about it. Also, it happened! Mari is my height! Soon I will be looking up to her. I now understand what you meant when you told me I was perfect and you would love me for always. So much perspective I’ve gained in the past six months!

I woke this morning and took Obi for a walk around the block before showering. I was already trembling. Anxiety creeping to the surface. Today it looked like an upset stomach, pressure in my chest, and tears waiting to erupt. My words left me, only raw emotion. Sadness, a bit of anger, grief…a lot of fucking grief. I’ve been so busy, I haven’t been able to  let go in the ways that people do. Then again, who really ever gets over the depth of such a loss? I’m forever changed, a rock of sadness in my pocket, but I am blanketed with a layer of gratitude. I lived in a world where YOU were my momma! It was a world of magic and faith and optimism with profoundly deep altruism. 

We dropped off the girls at school. Tesla melancholy, expressing her desire to have joined me on this trip. She misses you so much. Mari, too, hugging me tighter than normal, wiping away tears. My whole world misses your physical presence. 

A quick plane ride and I was with Daddy. While in the air, I was notified that I’d been in close proximity last week with a couple of people who tested positive. This damn virus still plagues the world, as if I needed yet another reminder that it hasn’t gone away. We went straight away to the pharmacy so I could procure a test, I refused to take off my mask until I had certainty. We stopped for coffee, then went to visit you. 

You had a beautiful decoration in your vase already. Margie was there. It made me happy. We then proceeded to give you a heart of white roses that Daddy bought for you. We planted sheets of seeds inside of the heart--making a mental note that the seeds had a better chance of survival if we added nutrient dense top soil. He added a small balloon to the vase to accompany the helium happy birthday balloon. Brother added tierra from his recent travels to the national parks. We both sprinkled two cascarones on you. Confetti is always a great idea. I shared some of my cafecito with you. Your voice in my head saying, “It’s good, mija.” There was a funeral not far from us. They had some Mariachi playing songs, the first one was “Amor Eterno.” I couldn’t help but smile through my tears thinking that of course, you’d have free Mariachi graveside on your birthday—even if they weren’t the best. Then a subsequent chuckle that you may have given them feedback on how they could improve their free performance for us. Always trying to be helpful to others in your own way. I sat on the uneven ground, digging my toes into the hard Lubbock red dirt. Not soft like sand until you got a couple of layers deeper. That caliche dirt strong and unwavering, the only thing thriving in that soil are the stickers that were poking through my leggings.

We sat there in the sun, celebrating your marvelous life, revisiting your many adventures. In the short six month since, I've come to realize that I"m a lot more like you than we both thought. I'm tenacious and fierce. I have grit and I'm teaching that to my girls. I'm gregarious and altruistic, caring less what others think of me and standing proudly in my authenticity. Any time I do something great, I can hear your voice, "Good job mija" Thank you for saying it to me more than a million times in my life. 

We went to have some lunch to continue the celebration. Mexican food, of course. We made sure to have your favorites: tortilla soup and enchiladas. Margie joined us, catching up, and sharing time. We were stuffed! We sojourned home for a nap but my anxiety wouldn’t let me find sleep. So I went to have a cafecito with a friend. Coffee and walking have seemed to help me most.

Later, Mikey, Nono, Brittany, Uncle Mutt, Daddy, and I had a red velvet Nothing Bundt Cake. We put your graduation photo stick in the cake (covered with Saran Wrap at the base) and I placed my purple emergency birthday candle in it. I lit the candle and we sang happy birthday to you. Once we finished singing, the candle went out on its own—hi momma. I hope you got your wish—I know it was a prayer for each us. We each enjoyed a slice and others were able to have a piece to-go for those who were unable to join us. 

Then it was time for me to catch my plane home. More flights to come this week, more work and Mommy work, but today was for you. I wish I would’ve had more birthdays with you. I miss you so very much. 

Happy birthday, Momma. It was a good day celebrating you. 

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