July 7, 2014
I believe I have finally gotten back into the swing of things that is my routine. Which I suppose is a good thing, considering that school starts for me in just over one week. No more three month vacations for this girl. Getting back into my routine also includes my writing. It has been one of my more recent life goals to write on an everyday basis. So, here goes…
Today’s Daily Prompt is entitled “Leftovers – For this week’s writing challenge, shake the dust off something — a clothing item, a post draft, a toy — you haven’t touched in ages, but can’t bring yourself to throw away.” Because I couldn’t think of anything specific, I asked my sister to give me a letter and I would take it from there. Today’s prompt is brought to you by the letter ‘M’.
Memento Mori is a Latin term that translate literally to ‘remember (that you have) to die.’ The term generally refers to an object serving as a reminder of the inevitability of death or our own mortality. Sometimes confused with the term memento (often misspelled momento) which means an object or item that serves to remind one of a person, past event, etc.; keepsake; souvenir. Well, there we go, a definition we can work with.
I tend to be a little clutter-y, at least as far as my space is concerned. My bedroom, my desk at school, my bathroom, and a certain teeny-tiny spot in my garage. I will admit that this clutter amounts to my own personal mementos. I have gifts from my children, pictures of the past, report cards from my children’s long ago grade schools, medals, cards, and any number of priceless memorabilia. I will certainly be embarrassed when I die and my children are left with the task of cleaning out my belongings. I should really clean things out. However, the one thing I will never get rid of, the one thing that I simply must keep, is the little kid, heart necklace pictured at the beginning of this post. Here is the history:
In March of 1997, I was 33 years old and was facing a new life as a single parent of my four living children. To say that I was a wreck is an understatement. Without rehashing my very colorful past, I was in a very bad place and I was dragging my children along for the ride. My children were 12, 10 4, and 3. I knew I needed help. Thank God and my family.
I placed a call to my dad, a rarity in those days. All I said was, “I need help, Dad.” He knew what was up. He said he would talk things over with my mom. A few hours later, and much to my surprise, my dad pulled up in front of my sister’s house, where I had been staying, and announced he was taken custody of my kids. I didn’t argue, I didn’t fight, I didn’t fuss. I knew it was the right thing for them. But what to tell my kids?
I took all of my children into the back bedroom. I explained what was wrong with me (the two oldest already knew) and that I needed to get help. I told them that Nana and Tata would take care of them until I could get my shit together and be a proper mom. My oldest daughter, Muffin, was wearing the heart necklace (pictured above) around her cute little, chubby neck. She deliberately took it off, and held it in her hands. She held it as though she was holding a priceless antique. She then took her right index finger and motioned for me to bend down to her. I knelt down to her so that we were eye-to-eye. She then carefully and gently placed the heart necklace around my neck. She whispered to me, “Mama, wear this necklace until we are back together, okay?” I was speechless.
Throughout the next 3 years I wore that necklace faithfully. Not only did I wear it, I displayed it. I showered with it, I swam with it, I went to church with it and I went to school with it.
My two sons, 12 and 10, lived with my parents in Arizona and my two daughters at first went to live with my sister and her family in Arizona but eventually stayed with my brother and his wife in California. I, myself, spent a summer drying out and coming to my senses. Eventually, however, I moved back in with my parents and my sons. My dad had instructed me that I was not to get my kids back until I went to school, graduated and became a teacher (something he knew I always wanted to be). He would give custody back when, and if, he knew I could fully support them all.
I had signed legal guardianship over to both my parents and my brother and sister-in-law. For those of you who do not understand the implications of such a move, it meant that I was responsible to pay child support. Between the state of California and the state of Arizona, I was assessed a total of $1200 a month. By the end of the three years, with interest, the total was over $45,000. That’s right, over $45,000. Here’s the good news, I paid every single solitary penny off. I worked my way through college as a retail clerk, and my wages were garnered. I became a teacher in January of 2001, and my wages were garnered. Believe you me, the state gets their money. And as well they should, I should have to pay for my own children.
I graduated from college in December of 2000, it only took me three years and a ton of student loans. Here’s the great news, I regained custody of all of my children. Yes, they all came back to live with me and I spent the next 12 years trying to be the best mother I could be. I think I succeeded, at least that is where all indications point. And the necklace? The heart necklace my daughter so lovingly put around my neck? Well, throughout the three year that I would visit my daughters, Muffin would sit in my lap and fiddle with the necklace with a faraway look in her eyes. I never knew what she was thinking, I couldn’t bear to ask. She obviously knew of its significance, as long as I am wearing it, we will be apart.
One day in December of 2000, when my children were all back with me safe and sound, I called Muffin into my bedroom. Muffin was 8 years old. I asked her if I could take the necklace off, now. She nodded “Yes!” with a great big smile on her face. I took it off, first time in over three and a half years, put it in a jewelry box, and we hugged and we cried. Our separation journey had officially ended.
During my years of separation, that necklace was an albatross around my neck. Now, however, it represents the connection I have, and will always have, to my children. It is my memento mori because during those three years away from my children, I was reminded every day, remember you die. Peace, ~v.