She Used To Be Mine

Dear Mom,

waitress-a-r-t-jessie-mueller.jpgI went to see the musical Waitress over the weekend. It is a stage adaptation of the movie Waitress which I guess came out a long time ago, or awhile ago. I never saw it and can’t find it on Netflix.  I started using Netflix after you passed away. Sorry. If I had figure it out before, I would have shown you how to use it.

Anyway, the reason I went all the way to Seattle to see this show is because

1) It didn’t look like it was coming to Canada, or at least not to Vancouver.

2) One of my all time favourite singer/songwriters Sara Bareilles wrote the music for it.

3) She Used to Be Mine- one of the songs in the musical.

I’ve been singing Sara Bareilles’ songs now for sometime.  Her lyrics and compositions are so unique and full of memorable images and pauses, and syncopations and she has a beautiful voice.  I love how every song really says something. I mean, the something is always profound, or playful, or poignant or all of the above.  I feel changed after going through the stories in her lyrics and music.

But in particular, “She Use To Be Mine” gripped me almost from the first note, but definitely from the first few phrases.  I first heard it at a live concert of Sara Bareilles’. My roommate Karen and I went to see the concert in Seattle a few years ago.  At that time, you were still around, and the song still spoke to me, gripped my heart, and made me catch my breath a little. It made me sad, and happy, and feeling alive and inspired, but also pained and empathetic as well- towards the subject of the song or to myself, I don’t know.

It was explained to us at that time that Sara Bareilles wrote the song for the musical, and that the musical would be out in a couple of years. It was also explained to us that the song came about because the character in the play is pregnant, but she doesn’t want to have the baby. She is with a guy who doesn’t treat her well, and she doesn’t have a good paying job or much stability. So she feels like she has nothing to offer the child, and also seems to miss the person she thought she would become.

So at that time, the “She used to be mine” chorus made sense to me as Sara Bareilles meant it- that the person who was the dreamer and beauty, and go getter used to be a part of the main character. I think her name was Jenna. But that Jenna was mourning her passing- as if that part of her had gone and died. Was no longer there. As Sara Bareilles said in her concert- it is a concept and feeling we can all probably relate to- when something in our lives passes over us, and we don’t look or act or have the time to be or do that thing anymore that used to be such a part of us.

I fell in love with the song instantly, and when I got back to Vancouver, I wanted to sing it. I learned it and kept practising it. And something in it always brought me to tears, whether I heard it, was singing along with it, or just singing it on my own.

But after you passed away, I couldn’t say the chorus lines anymore without just breaking down.  The “She used to be mine” line made me think that I was somehow referring to you, especially when I had to sing the whole line, “She is gone but she used to be mine.”

I found out recently that one of the karaoke places I go to often has that song available for people to sing. So I started singing it again. I try to imagine that I am singing it for you, or to you, or to tell people about you.

But there is a change that I make in mind when it comes to the song and the lyrics.  Whether I imagine the “she” who is gone to be a part of me or to be you, I don’t allow myself to believe the “used to be mine” part.  You are still mine and will always be mine, mom.  As I have written to you before, no one can ever take your place. No one can every be or try to be my mom. You are the only mom I want, the only one I had, and the only one I still have. There is no “used to”. You are still mine. My mother.  I hope you know that. I hope you know that I never forget about you and never will.

In the play, the main character ends up loving her daughter the moment she was born, and deciding to take care of her on her own. She doesn’t want the father to be around because she knows that he is selfish and doesn’t know how to love the woman let alone a child.  And I thought it was so beautiful but also so sad, how selfless this woman becomes to give her all to her child.  Without any help.

She would speak to the baby when she was in her stomach. Dear baby, she would say.  She would tell the baby her fears but also her dreams for the baby, that she wished that she could give her everything.

I know you were that kind of mom, but you didn’t have to tell me what you hoped to give me. You just did it.  I don’t know how. And it breaks my heart a little every day to think of how much you sacrificed for me. How there may have been so many parts of you that went away or had to go because you ended up putting me first, putting both of your kids first.

So I feel like apologizing and thank you all at the same time. I am sorry for all the things you had to do day in and day out to keep us safe, and cared for, and fed and loved, when sometimes that meant you didn’t have the time or energy to give that same caring and love to yourself.  Thank you, Mommy for having me, for caring for me, for sacrificing for me, for standing up for me and keeping me protected and happy.

In the play, the main character’s mom has already passed away. But she was taught to make pies from her, and so she continues to do so- talking about some of her mom’s favourite pie flavours.

What would I choose as a pie name for you? Sweet, Laila Mama pie?  Whatever it is, it could never capture all that you were and are to me.  I don’t know how to ever repay you for all that you have done for me. I wish I had done more to show you how grateful I was for you during the time you were here. Please give me signs as to what I can do now for you. I know it is not the same, but I want to try.  I cried so much in the play- for not being able to tell you all that I want to now.  For not having mother daughter moments with you anymore. Is there a way to still have different kinds?- that surpass time and space? I need my mom still, and always will.

 

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Songs That Choke Me Up

sad songs

Dear Mom,

I’ve been going to karaoke a lot lately. Though I have lost my voice from overuse or holding emotions in my throat (that’s a topic for a whole other blog post), I still like being around people who sing. And I am hoping to get my voice back to itself or stronger sometime soon.

The trouble is that songs years ago, that I really liked, and could have sung now…well, some of them are too hard to sing. Not because of the complexity of the song in my voice, but the complexity and utter anguish that it causes in my heart.

Did you know that my go to song when I first tried karaoke a few years ago was always Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper. It’s a great song, and fits well in my voice. But I can’t finish the line that says “If you fall I will catch you, I will be waiting, time after time.”

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You’re Simply the Best

Dear Mom,

I’ve been trying to get over my fear of singing in front of people, so I’ve been going out to Karoake more often. I still get nervous, and can be hard on myself in terms of how my singing voice comes across, but I try to remember why I am doing this. It’s not supposed to be just about pleasing others, or about comparing myself to others. But just about using my voice to reach others, and to reach something deep down in myself. And to bring it out. But mostly, I want to sing for you, and I need to keep reminding myself of that. That keeps it real for me, or unreal, depending on how you look at it.

Unreal because I want you to be able to hear me. I hope you do. I hope you hear me and it brings you peace and happiness. I hope the resonance of music and my voice making it transcends this supposed boundary between heaven and earth, between you and me.  Even the songwriting that I’ve been dabbling in lately is for you.

I was sitting next to this guy at a sushi bar a couple of years ago in Seattle. And we got to talking, and he said it really well when he said something like, “The funny thing is that the more you sing and create music, people will think the songs are all about some guy, some big love and heartbreak in your life. But in fact, all the songs will be about your mom, and people won’t even realize.”

And he’s right, except for the “people won’t even realize” part.  Because I am going to tell them. I will make sure that as much as I can, I will be telling people about you, telling them that the songs are for you and about you.

The one I want to learn now is called Simply the Best by Tina Turner.  Because that’s what you are, and will always be- the best.  One of the hosts at the karaoke places sings the song a lot. She does such a great job of it. And even though it is an older song, she just makes me FEEL it, when she sings it. And so now, it is in my head often.  And you are in my heart always. And I want to blend the two together to sing You’re Simply the Best for you, my mother, the best thing that ever happened to me.

Thank you for being my mom and for giving me so much love and kindness and sweetness in my life.

This song, and all other songs really, are for you.

“You’re simply the best

Better than all the rest

Better than anyone

Anyone I ever met

I’m stuck on your heart

I hang on ever word you say…” 

You Are With Me Everywhere, Every Day

“When I am gone, look for me in every star,

every moon, every brand new day.

I am not gone.  I am everywhere with you dear.,

everywhere the light gets in.”

stargazing2

Dear Mom,

Yesterday, I went out to run some errands, and at a certain point, I thought I was lost. Lost in my own city, lot in my own neighbourhood, I was wondering what the point of all this roaming was.  Lists of things I ‘needed’ to get done throughout the day.  How did these lists even get made? I mean, how did I decide what to prioritize over what? And why?

My heart just felt heavy. I thought about you and how that should have been my main priority. And now, it hurts to not even feel like it’s an option- to give you my time, or love or get that unconditional love back from you. I was stepping on the pavement along the street, but felt a loss of footing, ungrounded.  I kept trying to keep myself focused on my list of things needing to get done, and not get distracted. But then I saw these pretty little cards and nick knack gifts at this cute shop along my path. And I stopped in not knowing what I was even looking for.

It turns out, I didn’t have to go very far. I hardly took two steps in, and IT found me. I didn’t have to even try. The first card, staring me right in the face. Or should I say fluttering it’s sparkly butterfly wings into my heart.  That little poem at the start of this blog entry is what was written on the card. And although I didn’t have my phone with me to take a picture of it, or even a pen to write it down, I sneaked open one of the pens that were on sale near me. And I jotted the words down on the corner of a little scrap piece of paper in my purse.  Don’t worry, I put the pen back where it belonged.

Hopefully, the universe will forgive me for taking a second to use a pen that wasn’t mine. I just felt like it was meant to be.  A message from you, I hope, I pray. A message telling me there is no reason to feel lost. You are with me, everywhere, every day.

I didn’t search for anything else in the store. Didn’t feel any need to delve deeper into all the cute items all around.

I walked out, walked to the bank- CIBC of course. Our bank.  And because I still don’t really like using the machines to make bill payments and check my balance (I’m very old school like that), I stood in line, and waited for a teller to be free.

I even remember thinking that I must have a lot of time on my hands to waste waiting instead of just quickening the process through the automated machine. But again, I was meant to be in that line. I am so glad I chose that “longer” path.  See, there was this older man in front of me. I’m guessing he was in his 70’s? I am not really sure.

But he was waiting too. And while he waited, he spotted one of those baskets or bowls of candy at one of of teller stands.  I thought he was just going to grab one, …or two? But he stuck his hand in their pretty deep and grab a bunch. Greedy little bugger, I thought to myself at first. Haha.  I thought for sure he was going to shove them in his pockets or something before anyone of the bank employees could catch him (Even though there is a camera not too far from where we were standing. But anyway…)

And you know what he did instead? He put his hand out to me, to tell me to take one or some.  Awww… my heart just melted.  “Have some,” he said, before he even took one for himself.

“Thank you,” I replied. “That is something my mom would do. It means a lot to me. Thank you.”

“My pleasure,” he said.

For some reason, I felt this need to add, “It almost makes me cry, because my mom passed away two and a half years ago. I remember she always used to pick up candy at banks while waiting in line, and give one to me and keep some in her purse.”

And he smiled such a genuine smile at me and said, “You know, I still talk to my parents, and they passed away a long time ago. We were taught that, that we could talk to them forever.  I came from a poor Irish family, but I was so lucky to have been brought up so well. I have had such a blessed life. Even my father never raised a hand or his voice to us. He didn’t have to. He would just look up at us and ask us to think about whether what we were doing was good or not.”

“Maybe you were meant to pass on a candy from my mom to me,” I said to him. “To remind me that my mom is always there.”

“Yes, she is,” he said.

And then he was called up to the next teller. And I tucked away the candy he gave me inside a corner of my purse, the purse you actually bought me, Mom.

You are everywhere with me, always.  I just can’t let it be any other way. I won’t let it.

I was, and still am, truly blessed to have you as my mom.

Love always and forever, Tas