Over the past week or so I have been reading the book “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed in preparation for a viewing at our local repertory cinema of the film starring Reese Witherspoon. It hasn’t been the easiest book to get through because most of the motivation and genesis of the action is the passing of Strayed’s mother. A work of non-fiction, the book focuses on a hiking trip Strayed takes a few years after her mother dies. Over the course of the hike Strayed seems to say that there is no way to understand or express what her relationship with her mother was nor how much that relationship has/will inform who she was/is/will be.
My take on the subtleties of the book and/or film are not meant for this space. What I kept feeling and remembering as I read was (SO DAMN OBVIOUSLY) what Mamie did for me. She always said that I needed to find my own life, my own path, my own family. When I decided to go to university, she highly encouraged me, despite the fact that I would be leaving her just months after my dad had passed on. After two years in London and frequent visits, I wanted to move to Montreal, which again she highly encouraged. We talked a lot on the phone, but there was a greater separation (spatially).
Some years later I decided to move to South Korea and she supported me. When I returned from Korea with my bride to be she was later happy to learn that we were planning on moving to Moscow to study film and culture. Yet again, she pushed me to do so. Two years later, failing to secure Russian visas, we moved to Prague and she was happy. Another three years later and we were off to Oman, and yet again Mamie encouraged us to be happy and safe.
Even though my mom had never been to any of these places, she thought it good to explore as much as possible. A lot of the times she had no idea where these places were, but she would look them up and surprise me with things she discovered about these places. It was hilarious to me that she made it a priority to find out about my environs and understand what my life like was in these exotic places.
The one common thread that ran through all of the places I lived was she always said: “Make sure you take care of yourself.”
Coming back to the film and book “Wild”: I found myself weeping at points for Cheryl Strayed because her mother passed away when Cheryl was only 22 and her mother was only 45.
My tears in the past week have not all been because of the time I will not have, but a lot for the years I did have. I feel lucky to have had all of the time I did with my mother and I feel genuinely sad for those who lose such a significant force and support earlier in their lives.
Without my mother I cannot imagine who/what I would have become. She constantly pushed me to try new things and to be a better person. Maybe all moms do this, but to have mine for so many years helped me through a lot of really hard times.
My thoughts this past week are with you and yours as you grieve and remember the forces that have made you who you have become.