by Ashley Weeks Cart
Happy Birthday, Mama.
Sunny made you a birthday banner at school yesterday. Unprompted, she came home and hung it over our kitchen table in preparation for today’s celebration of you. Both of your granddaughters are always looking for ways to bring a smile to my face, and they go about it in such thoughtful, tenderhearted ways. They come from your legacy of giving so freely, unabashedly, and warmly to those they love. You taught us all so well.
The flowers I would have sent to you today, I ordered for our household. I’ll enjoy their pastel, drippy romantic sweetness and think of all the beauty you brought to my life. I wish I’d written down all the myriad of things you told me about flowers and gardening over the years; but I never thought I wouldn’t have you by my side or a phone call away to remind me of every last perennial and its corresponding Latin root. Not yet, at least.
Today we’re driving to Saratoga, a place where you lived and loved, to celebrate your birthday. The girls so enjoyed our trip there last spring, and I was so eager to visit with you in tow so you could tell them all about your collegiate motherland. I’ve been wearing your Skidmore ring almost daily. And I think about its wild journey from a field at Goucher College, back into the hands of the Skidmore Alumni Office, and then back to you. I promise to keep better track of it this time. Although, I know you delighted in the story of two former women’s colleges having such devoted, thoughtful staff that it wound up being safely returned to you, even after my foolishness.
I found half-popped popcorn at the store yesterday, and nearly purchased all twenty bags on the shelf (I restrained myself to five). Just the other day, Sunny commented that her favorite part of eating popcorn was the half-popped kernels at the bottom of the bowl. I explained to her that you and I both shared that obsession, and that when I was in high school you’d actually found a company that made entire bags of just half-popped kernels. I hadn’t seen such a thing since, and then lo, on the shelves of Trader Joe’s, there they were. Thank you for that. We’ll snack on them en route to Saratoga. And the girls have planned to bake a chocolate cake, with chocolate frosting, covered in your favorite berries (strawberry, raspberry and blackberry. No blueberry!) for dessert tonight. They plotted out their vision for the cake last night. They take their sweets as seriously as you did.
As I was driving home last week after my first full day away from the house with Sander, I reached for the phone to call you and tell you all about it. When reality hit, I was left with the crushing devastation that happens in the wake of unexpected grief. They’ll never be enough tears to express how that feels. I don’t think I’ll ever stop doing that. Reaching for you. Yearning to hear your voice and your laugh. Your support and encouragement. Your stories. Your opinions. You were so full of all of these. And I miss them. Every day.
You are daily a part of our conversations and our storytelling. The way that we live our lives. You gave us all so much, and we’ll be forever seeking to give that back out to the world as a reminder of your generous, lion-hearted spirit.
I love you. Always. Forever. Toujours.
Bonne Anniversaire, Maman.
143 Your Ashley