Message in a bottle

Framed for safekeeping

One of the great disappointments in my life is that I am unable to share in my mother’s joy over seeing me become a cartoonist

It’s also a great disappointment that when sharing stories with you, dear reader, about my mother, it must be in the context of a woman who has died. Trust me when I tell you that my mother was so much more interesting a figure in the context of a living person. I have found that when someone dies, especially someone who was loved dearly and played important roles in many lives, they tend to get deified. Part of the grieving process is remembering all the good times you had and pretty soon all the shitty things about that person tend to get pushed aside, glossed over and never really touched on again. I find this to be a terrible disservice to the memory of a person. People are infinitely more exciting when you include the things about them you absolutely can’t stand.

My mother was a gossip, she shot her mouth off a lot, she played favorites, went behind my father’s back all the time to do things for us kids that we didn’t need to have done for us. She was loud, Italian, nosey, and could be mean. My mother and I talked about everything, and we argued about everything. One of the last conversations we had before she died was a fight. This was going to happen regardless of when either of us died, because we were always fighting about something.

Anyway, I’m telling you all this because I wanted to share this note I found from my mother. We found it tucked safely inside a small booklet she and my brother made years ago of my college strips. I think what happened was that this particular booklet was intended for my friend but somehow ended up with my Aunt and Uncle in California. They’ve kept it perfectly preserved since they received it in 1991 and had no idea there was a note from mom inside.

I had no idea that my mother thought in any detail about my comics. Obviously she was proud of me. Anytime I showed her something I worked on she would gush. But I never got the impression she understood anything about cartooning beyond “my son drew this.” I was shocked to see that she thought about it much at all, let alone enough to write a note down to brag about me in such specific ways.

I don’t know which aspects of the woman who was once my mother continue to persist, but I do believe that if she’s out there in any form, she has ceased to see time in a linear fashion. So I can talk to my mother right now, and she could know of that conversation, because to her, I already said it years ago, and she experienced everything I am ever going to say and do the instant she connected with infinity and then she came to peace with it and went on to tackle greater mysteries. This is my hope. This is my very dear hope.

This note was a very precious artifact to find, because for the moment in which I first read it, time stopped being linear for me as well. And I felt transported to a time when I was not burdened with remembering her. What a gift. What an accidental happiness I was afforded by a choice my mother made 21 years ago.

Life is odd and wonderful.