Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

Mama Told Me

In Love, Stories, secrets & dreams on May 4, 2014 at 5:15 pm


Mama Told Me

Mama told me there’d be days like this! I’d only lived with my mother until I was three, then divorce and my dad got custody. There were few visits until I decide to visit her. It was 1955; I was 15 and rarely far from home, which is hardly the case with today’s 15 year-olds. So my brother put me on a bus from Paterson, New Jersey, at the new Port Authority Bus Station in New York. I had been 11 when I last saw my mother, still chubby, round-faced not really tall; by 12 all that changed, I was nearly my present height, and slim!

As I got off the bus at Market Street, I saw an Eva Marie-Saint looking blond (had just seen On the Waterfront) wearing a rust suede jacked. I’d always called my mother ‘Peggy’ since I never really knew her as ‘mom’. I wanted to surprise her but I think she knew I had arrived. “Peggy?” She turned around – told me “How you’ve grown! I don’t believe it.”

We took another bus to Preakness – no.88, I remember, and my Mama told me so many things about what I’d see on the farm when I met her husband Sam, and my half-sister Bonnie – now nine. I had a wonderful time!

I will skip ahead many years, far beyond when Mama (“Peggy”) told me her side of the divorce story, since I’d only heard Dad’s – what daddy told me. I knew, even as a child, there could not be just me dad’s side of it.

Nineteen eighty-four, I was 44, my mom nearly 71. We’d had our problems through the years, as children, teens ect. with parents, except I never had as much time with my mother in resolving them – except correspondence where you have delays of reaction, thus having the other party know where you stand, and you knowing where the other party stands, exchanging feeling, making amends, ect. Mama told me I could come down for a visit (she lived in Florida) and for me to suggest when. I chose Mother’s Day week – May 10-17, 1984 – flying down on a Thursday due to heavy air traffic volume, high airline fares, ect.

I’ll never forget that week I had with my mother – Mama telling me many things (and me telling her many things) especially that she loved me. I did not know it would be the last time I’d see her. She had something else to tell me, but not in words, in other ways, obviously. Why did she wear all white that week except the night I left for home, when she had on an aqua blouse? I had taken the very best pictures of her ever, also not knowing they would be the last.

At the airport, as I was heading toward the entrance, I turned around, waved, and blew a kiss goodbye. She had the most melancholy look on her face – that wistful smile of hers she was known to have. I went back to ask her what was wrong. She was a good actress, her husband Sam had told me. Well my Mama told me then, “Oh nothing – great time we had – now don’t you miss your plane!” People’s Express it was.

It was my Mother’s day goodbye. I’d never see her again – what Mama could not tell me was “I’m dying” The plane in the air, I realized it over many drinks. My whole life flashed before me, all my memories of Mama.

In June I sent Mama a new flower-print bathing suit – one piece guessing her size as 14. Well, it was 12! I phoned her, asked if she got it. “Fits like a glove.” This was my dad’s 74th birthday, three days before Mama died. I asked her how she was doing, “I’m working on the country farm painting I showed you.” Then Mama told me, “I take today. I love you – bye-bye.” The last words Mama ever told me.

by Toby Van Buren


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