My mother, Gabriele Rico, with her grandson, Adrian

The Memories We Make

She had such a lovely voice, turning simple words–“Hi honey!” or “Good morning, sunshine!”–into songs. I could see her sitting in the bed with the bronze nails framing the headboard, leaning against it as the golden light outside streamed in sideways. But is the glow I saw a remnant of reality or a neat trick of selective memory?

We are back in LA for three weeks finishing up our move to Maine. I woke earlier than E and the kids, feeling a pull to visit the guesthouse out back where my mother lived for six months while she was sick. The bougainvillea outside the casita were blooming red, the geraniums sunbleached and bug-eaten. A dove called somewhere out of sight as I walked in, trying to wake up the sun.

Scenes welcomed me into that room: my mom’s cat, Luna, fighting with the neighbor cat while my mom ran around in a t-shirt and underwear trying to break it up; the afternoon she helped plan her own memorial service, insisted she wanted a “thrifty” one (“Don’t put me in one of those expensive urns!” she said); Mom in the casita doorway wearing pink boy-shorts that showed off still-beautiful legs. The memories that are etched most deeply, preserved like a fly in amber, are good ones. Trick or truth, I don’t care.

“Nice to see you, Mama,” I whispered into the quiet. There was no answer but that’s ok. The night before, I’d kept stopping in the middle of mundane moments—cleaning out kitchen drawers, deadheading roses, folding laundry–hearing my voice come out strangely like hers. “It’s like a existential hiccup,” I told Ethan, “a little bump in the energy.” What a cool application of the butterfly effect—tiny wings flapping a world away, and in my yard, the palm fronds sway. “I miss her too,” said E.

We’ll miss Los Angeles over the next year in Maine. The casita, the dove, and the bougainvillea. Even the headboard with the nails set in perfect order.But how lovely that the memories will travel with us, all those little flies caught in amber, dark and rich and detailed with the remnants of love.

My mother, Gabriele Rico, when she was fighting Stage 4 cancer

A Time To Remember