Sunday, May 8, 2011

Missing My Mother--and the Contest Winner

Margaret, Me, Jane and Mom circa 1972 at Ball State University
Today was a wild and crazy Mother's Day. I spent most of the morning trying to sort through my books and scrapbooking supplies. We've decided to move from the house we've rented in Vienna, VA, to a condo in Tysons Corner, a nifty 7th floor loft. I think the new place will be good for us.  We can walk to Tysons Corner (where David's store is) or to the Galleria. There's a Harris Teeter 24-hour grocery store on the first floor. Once the Tysons Corner Metro stations are operational (sometime in 2012), we'll be able to go to either Dulles or Reagan on the train--and taking the Metro into DC proper should be a snap. Anything, anything! to avoid the dreaded DC traffic!

But this is the second time I've downsized in two years, and my third move in the same, so perhaps I can be forgiven for getting a bit weepy. My son called to wish me happy Mother's Day, and I felt so far from him and so discombobulated that I finally did wipe a few tears away before I went back to my sorting.

And somehow David and I lost track of time. We needed to leave Vienna at 1:30 for me to make it to Reagan in time to make my plane. Somehow, while we were packing and discussing what to keep/give away/sell/ move to the stores/ move to storage/ and send to Florida, we stopped watching the clock. When we noticed it was ten 'til two, we went racing to the car, threw my stuff in, and hit the streets.

"Don't worry," said David. "It's Sunday. There won't be any traffic."

I don't know where HE'S been living the past two years. The only times I've never seen traffic in DC was one morning at 5:30 a.m. Oh, yeah, and the day we got five feet of snow. Of course there was traffic. It was like driving through a molasses drip in January.

We were both in a lather when we pulled up to the US Airways curb-side check-in. US Air has decided that you, dear paying customer, must operate the check-in computer on your own. And just to make that nearly impossible, all the directions have been worn off the machines. There are slots, and a bar code scanner, but what does any of that mean? Hmmm? What do you put where? By the time I got my boarding pass, I was frantic. I kissed David goodbye and sprinted for the gate.

Hauling my heavy backpack, my purse, and the bouquet of roses David had given me for Mother's Day, I made it to security. I was waiting my turn in line when I heard them announce over the airport loud speaker: "Will the owner of a black Blackberry left at the US Airways curb-side check-in, please come back and claim it?"

They were talking about David's Blackberry.

I started calling him to confirm that it wasn't his--and wondering what to do if it was. When I finally got him on the phone, he laughed and said he'd realized it was missing and swung  back by to pick it up.
By now, I was drenched in sweat. I made it to security where the TSA agent demanded that I remove the scarf from around my neck. I have NO idea what they thought I was hiding in my scarf besides my aging neck.

The plane was boarding as I walked up to the gate.

My sister Jane picked me after I landed at the West Palm Beach airport. "Something strange happened. I got an email yesterday. It was addressed to Mom."

"Wow," I said. Mom's been dead two years now.

"The email came from you," said Jane.

Over the weekend, I sent out my email blast announcing my upcoming signings. I'd forgotten that my mom's email address was still on the Constant Contact list. Since Mom's email account is on Jane's computer, Jane saw the email message addressed to Mom, opened it, and realized it came from me.
"I just can't bring myself to delete her name from everything, every list, every place it might appear," said Jane. "I miss her."

I know what she means. I still have Mom's email address on my computer address book, her phone number in my phone, and her mailing address in my Rolodex. It's like I'm pretending she's still here. But, of course, she's not.

After Jane went to work, I took a walk on the beach, drank a glass of wine, and opened my computer to write my weekly post. That's when I saw that Jane had posted this photo of the four of us--the three of us Campbell girls and our mother--on her Facebook page.

I remember the day the photo was taken. It happened during a hard time in our lives. My father had left us, and we were on welfare. I don't know how we found the courage to smile, but we did. And a friend snapped this photo. We were all so young, so broke, so frightened, but we had each other.

Once again, I'm sitting here crying.

How can it be Mother's Day when my mother isn't here? I think about that kid's book with the little bird looking for his mother. He asks the dog, "Are you my mother?" and the cat, "Are you my mother?"

Eventually he finds his mother.

But I won't. Mine is gone.


Sarita, you won the copy of Pumped for Murder by Elaine Viets. Email me at and share your postal address so I can mail it to you, please.


Sarita said...

Thank you! I am thrilled to begin my day on this high note.

I love the photo. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Dru said...


signlady217 said...

Not fair, making me cry first thing this morning! I'm sorry you don't have your mom with you anymore, but it sounds like you do have some very precious memories. My mom is one of my best friends, and thinking about her being gone is just...unthinkable! I was supposed to spend this week with her, but due to the road closings in Arkansas I had to cancel my trip. Needless to say, we're both disappointed, but better to be safe than sorry. Hope you still have a good week yourself. Looking forward to reading the new book!

Terri Thayer said...

Oh Joanna, what a day. I almost hated that book Are You MY Mother? It was too sad.

I bet your mother was overjoyed and proud whenever she received one of your email newsletters. Yesterday, too.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Wow, Joanna, you're certainly going through a busy and unsurprisingly emotional time. My mom is gone, too, which makes Mother's Day hard, so I empathize with you. All best on your travels and latest move.

Monica Ferris said...

I have now lost both mother and father so Mother's Day and Father's Day serve as sweet-sad reminders that they're gone. But I do have fond memories of both of them - that I really need to write down for the rising generation.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Yep, we're all part of the same generation, so my situation isn't unique. However, I did want to share it, especially when my sis provided that wonderful, evocative photo.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

And Terri, you've got the title right. I muffed it.

sandy said...

I love the photo. Both my sisters graduated from Ball State. And we too still miss our mom. Sometimes when I'm making dinner, I'll reach out to call her about the cooking, or for a recipe and then I realize that she can't answer. Mother's Day is a tough day for me too.

Looking forward to your new book.

Betty Hechtman said...

My mother was my best friend and I miss her every day. She's the one who told me to make my own good time and taught me how to see the up side of everything. Just before she died, she said she would always be around me. There's a light that sometimes goes on by itself in my place in Chicago and when it does, I know it's her.

Camille Minichino said...

Wow, Joanna, what an amazing story.

It occurred to me that even those of us who never had a true mother go around asking, Are you my mother?
Thanks for the connection.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

I miss her, but I wouldn't want her to continue suffering as she did. She wasn't my rock, or my best friend, but she loved me as much as she could. And I loved her.

Susan said...

Joanna, your post had me in tears. My mother has been gone for four years and I, too, still have her phone number in my address book and a weekly reminder to "call Mom" on my Outlook calendar. Just can't bring myself to erase those connections to her.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Susan, I totally understand. Every holiday I open my mailbox expecting a card from Mom. It's a pain in the heart and it doesn't seem to be getting better!