Riley Juliet · Soul Searching

Her blonde hair

I had fun light posts planned (in my head) for this week, but somehow here we are, starting the week (on Tuesday apparently) with this instead. Sometimes I guess when you sit down to write, you don’t always know where your thoughts will take it. And no, Ron, I’m not whining 😉 Just being a bit melancholy.

My mom passed away in 2012. Two days after my birthday and less that 3 months before my and Ron’s wedding, I lost her. I wish this weren’t the case, but we weren’t super close and didn’t talk often. She had moved to Florida a few years earlier, and I hadn’t seen her in a while, except when I visited her while she was sick. For much of the 3-day trip, she slept. At other times, she thought I was her sister. I’ve spent a lot of time wishing I could go back and know her better, know her as an adult daughter instead of the overgrown teenager I was at the time. I wish she knew Ron better, and that he knew her, other than the many stores and clippings of my childhood I’d passed on. I can’t even describe – it brings tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat – how much I wish I could tell her what EVERY mom wants and needs to hear…that she did an amazing job, that I love her and that I couldn’t have asked for better than what she gave me. More than anything in this world, I wish she could know my children and that they could know her.

I know I’ve written about some of this before, but it really socks me in the gut sometimes. I can be watching TV and something completely unrelated reminds me of how my mom would put lemon in her Diet Cola (Shop Rite brand) every day. Seeing something on ESPN (I think?) with Ron recently that referenced Hurricane Katrina made me remember the time she drove with a co-worker to New Orleans to rescue puppies. I have a picture on my nightstand of the two of us when I was just a couple months old. I look like a grumpy, chubby old man despite my frilly bonnet. Riley points out the picture sometimes, and in her toddler confidence tells me, “That’s your mom, right Mom?” And I tell her yes. And if I’m in the right frame of mind (and not struggling to get out the door or down to work), I indulge in talking to her about my mom, her grandma, and revel in Riley’s sweet questions.

The frame was a gift from my mom at our engagement party

This past Sunday as Riley crept outside to join Ron and I during our weekend lunch-on-the-deck, she scooted into my lap and started to finish my lunch. Her hair was ringlet curly as a baby, and now it is a lot straighter on top, but if you lift that upper layer, she has big banana curls underneath. Her hair is blonde (so is Sawyer’s) and has been all her life (well once her hair actually grew in). I couldn’t comprehend her blonde hair for a while, with me and Ron and the majority of our family being dark. Except for my mom.

As Riley sat on my lap, dipping her finger in the (delicious) ranch dressing, I played with her hair, something she asks me to do more and more. It always makes me smile, and I can’t remember saying no (yet) because it is such a girly thing to do. I sat there, with sunlight making her blonde locks shine and thought of my mom. Of her blonde hair. Of how I wished she could be on the other end of Facetime or a visit. Of the way she gravitated to all little kids and could make any baby smile. Of how much these two kids would love her.

I asked Riley who gave her her blonde hair, and she parroted the question back to me. I told her my mom did. I told her I was so happy to play with her blonde hair because it looks just like my mom’s blonde hair did, because when I see it I think of my mom. In true toddler fashion, she turned the conversation around to more light-hearted things and asked me who made my hair blonde (I had to answer honestly and say Aunt Jamie – haha!).

I love thinking that my babies have attributes hand-chosen by those they’ll never get to meet in this life, that those so close to has touched them before we did. I don’t know if Riley and Sawyer will hold on to that light hair or if it will darken as they grow older, but I’ll never forget the way the light hit those strands and immediately my mom was there, right in front of me, in the shape of my daughter.



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