The Little Things….

The end of September, is always an emotional time for me. It’s the little things, like the smell of Juicy Fruit gum that floods my mind and heart with memories. I bought a pack this weekend and thoughts of my great aunt stayed in my head. She raised me from infancy, although my mother remained in my life.

When I was a child, every time she opened her purse the sweetness enveloped my nostrils. It made me feel happy. Now, it makes me a bit melancholy. She passed away 11 years ago on September 29th.  I miss her tremendously. We had a tight bond. She clung to me through her day to day illness; through the infidelity of her husband, through a life not lived to the fullest.

I was her company and I never wanted to hurt or disappoint her. Sometimes, the clinging felt like a choke-hold. I was restricted from most things kids and teenagers do. I wanted to go away to college, but was kept at home. Now,I think I understand why. The streets near do or die Bed-Stuy were mean as hell. Rap music had started in the Bronx. Crack had hit NY in epidemic proportions. Very “scary” things for a woman in her sixties, an immigrant to America, to understand and get accustomed to.

By keeping me off of the streets, in her mind, I was kept out of all kinds of trouble. If I went away to school, the control of situations (partying, etc…) would be over. I might not live up to my potential. What she didn’t realize was, I wasn’t so afraid of the Big Bad Wolf of life, but more afraid that my family wouldn’t love me if I did something wrong. Fear, for me was feeling unloved.

My mother was in my life until she passed away at age 51,  24 years ago on September 27. Every time I hear a Teddy Pendergrass song, I see my mother in my head. When I think of my first experience at Walt Disney World, I hear her voice. When I see recipes for shrimps and rice, I smell her food.

She took risks, made mistakes, because she was looking for love. She looked in all the wrong places and to the wrong people for her happiness. There have been many times, I’ve heard about her negatively, even from family members, but my heart understands her suffering. It upsets me to hear the negativity, it’s like people forget she was my mother, imperfect and flawed as she was.

She didn’t know that until she found self love, she couldn’t be happy. She craved attention,companionship and love. Her childhood was not simple. She came from a divorced family when that was frowned upon. She wasn’t very book smart, but had street smarts and could handle herself when she went out to have good times. Those weren’t taken as positive attributes by people that knew her. They failed to understand, we are not all cookie cutter images to fit into. She was flawed and there was a hole in her heart she was trying to fill.

I never lived full time with her, but she went back to school shopping with me, colored my hair, and taught me how to travel the aforementioned mean streets, including having a mean mug, or blank face so I wasn’t troubled by the unsavory. She studied and became a naturalized citizen before she left this earth.

I’m about to be 50 and she died at 51. She grabbed at life and understanding her early losses, I see why. She wanted more than what was presented in front of her. She wanted to be happy.

I’m also trying to grab at fun and enjoyment. I’m trying regardless of illness, loneliness, isolation, disappearing friends and acquaintances, disappearing invitations to celebrate life or accomplishments, lack of relationships, funky finances or whatever else life decides to throw at me .

I have my SGI-USA Buddhist practice which teaches I can be in the worse of circumstances, but circumstances shouldn’t control me. I can be happy within, no matter what happens. Big and little things, they may shake me, but will not take over my life or heart.

My mind and heart are filled with memories, things I wish I had done differently. Maturing and experiencing life will make you question how you have handled yourself.  I am who I am because of the women in my life. We don’t always appreciate the whole picture, but see things one frame at a time. Growing up I saw one frame at a time. Now, I see the full picture with total clarity.

If i had one more moment spent with either of them, I would say I’m sorry you were not as happy as you could have been. I hope I brought joy to your lives. I hope your next lives will be everything you need for joy and fulfillment.

The end of September will always be this way for me. Always thinking of the little things.

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