The day after my mother’s funeral I threw her pots and pans, clothes and cookbooks into the apartment building dumpster. I didn’t keep anything because I didn’t want anything.
God, she would not approve of this clearing out; she was stingy with her approval, but generous with her criticism, usually accompanied by slowly shaking her head. I could feel her shaking her head at me at the dumpster.
“Don’t they have any pretty shoes?” she’d asked when I opted for comfortable shoes.
“Well, if you want to wear those clod hoppers…” she’d said, shaking her head.
I didn’t tell her I was gay – a forty year old woman keeping a secret from her mother – because she’d disapprove of that more than the shoes. I went my way and lived my life and didn’t share it with my mother. The sting of her disapproval about every day things lessened over the years but I never lost my fear that her reaction would cut me too deep.
I walked through the apartment to make sure I hadn’t left any junk and in a closet found a shoebox tightly bound in duct tape like it was a national treasure. I was going to toss it, but I decided to look inside. I wanted to end the clean out making fun of her mysterious trash.
The box contained two wire-bound notebooks in my mother’s big, loopy handwriting.
1/1/42 D. and I went to the ocean. I told her I loved her and she said she loved me.
10/22/42 Staying with D. for the weekend. We spent all Saturday .
My mother never talked about this woman. She only talked about cooking and how much she missed my father.
Both notebooks contained more entries about her and D. They were very much in love, The second notebook ended abruptly after one last, happy entry about a champagne-filled New Year’s party. The rest of the pages were blank.
I sat on the floor trying to decide what to do with the notebooks. Why hadn’t she thrown them out years before, why keep them bound and hidden in a closet? Why hadn’t she told me about her love for D?
I took the notebooks home, and put them in my bookcase, next to all my poetry she didn’t like and my Zen texts she despised, her life and mine together at last.
About the writer:
Elizabeth Moura lives in a converted factory in a small city and works with elders in a small town. She has had poetry, flash fiction or photographs published in several publications including The Heron’s Nest, Chrysanthemum, Ardea, Presence, Shamrock, Paragraph Planet and Flash Fiction Magazine.