Goodbyes

A month ago yesterday, I lost my mum. A couple of weeks later I submitted my thesis. These two facts are not necessarily in relationship with one another, but at the same time they are, for me at least. As I clicked on the submit button I cried. Tears of relief and sadness and exhaustion and all the possible emotions mixed together. I was saying good-bye to my characters who had kept me company for so many months and shared with me the joy and pain of this secluded time in lockdown until the biggest, most powerful hit. My mother’s loss. Expected and unexpected at the same time. She had been holding on through her cruel illness for so long that I didn’t expect her to go right now, right at the moment I couldn’t even go and see her one last time. But it would have been selfish thinking to wish her to stay around longer. Truth is I have been mourning her for the past six years her passing has been a five years long affair. I saw her wilting like a flower, shrinking until even the very last petal finally dropped. It’s been excruciatingly painful and cruel and the hardest thing to accept.

I read somewhere that people don’t leave you until you have learned something, don’t know if that’s true but somehow with my mum’s passing everything has come full circle. It’s almost like she waited to go until I could understand certain things about myself. While she got weaker and weaker, I got stronger, in the awareness of myself and of what I was capable of. The determination with which I have pursued my MFA has surprised me. People ask me what I am going to do with this, and my answer simply is, I don’t need to do anything with it as it has already done so much for me! It’s been so incredibly healing, the possibility I gave myself to pursue a dream of writing, the longest and only dream I have ever had, together with having kids and see the world beyond the little town I grew up in. A dream that has been fostered by my mother and in which she has played quite a big role. I remember the afternoons spent at home while she was ironing, and I was trying to write my first stories. They always sounded corny and silly. Meg who was trying to climb the mountain, a group of friends meeting at a bar called “Banana Moon”. They were never good enough, I was never good enough. I would tear the sheets into pieces and move on. But the fear of not being good enough sunk in deep and became etched in my mind leaving me a prisoner of a burning desire to express myself that couldn’t find any viable option. When I was little, we used to go for errands me and my mother, walking hand in hand and I would look into shops’ windows and when I asked for a toy her reply was always: how about a book? She introduced me to Little women, which became easily my favourite book of all times, Uncle Tom’s cabin,  Mary Poppins and The sound of music and all the other magical things that were part of her world, a world that is long gone, which sometimes I miss even if I was too young to be part of it. Maybe that’s the relationship between my mum and my stories. My mum showed me a side of reality filled with a certain magic, a love for life that transcended the heaviness of the everyday. She didn’t know she had it, but I saw it. She was the ultimate cool girl. Where other mothers were preoccupied with church or school or little town’s gossip, my mother used to tell me of that time her and her friends chased Cary Grant down Via Veneto while he was shooting “Roman Holidays.” Sometimes she would be moved by a song or some words she read somewhere and now I know, where I got it from. This soft heart that is so easily moved.

Days have gone by and life somehow goes on. I haven’t lost my smile, I still make jokes, I still laugh with the kids. Yet nothing is the same. I have grown out of the child I used to be, this time permanently and it took my mother to go for me to finally shed the last layer of childhood. My mum is not around anymore, and I am essentially an orphan. As I was having my coffee today, I imagined she was sitting at the table across me and we were having a moment just for us, a moment we haven’t had for so long. We were laughing and chatting, telling each other stories. I missed her so deeply but in the pain I found the comfort of knowing that she will never be forgotten but always part of my days. As I said good-bye to her, I also said good bye to my characters that have been my friends in these solitary months. Anna, Maya, Mr and Mrs Kaufmann, Sara, Barbara, Harukichi-san. Thank you all for choosing me to tell your stories, I promise I’ll do my best to share them with the world in return. And thank you mum for being who you are, you have enriched our lives in ways that I am sure you didn’t even realize. I just hope you can see it from wherever you are.

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