Closer

I go into my closet sometimes and pull my jewelry box down from where it’s hidden on the shelf, underneath winter sweaters and clothes from my thinner days that I can’t bear to part with.

I sit down on my bed with the box in my lap and when I close my eyes I hear my mother’s voice telling me about the day she saw it through a storefront window, how beautiful she thought it was and how grown-up it made her feel, her first real jewelry box. I remember when she gave it to me, at a pivotal point in my teenage years.

I look at the images she chose to decoupage the leather with before passing it on, images that are, without a shadow of a doubt, decidedly ‘me’.

I open the lid and breathe in the familiar smell – the sweetness of the Tiger Balm she’d rub on her forehead during a migraine spell and the musty smell of old leather, of history, of years passed. I breathe in deeply. The smell makes me feel close to her somehow.

I know I was a spitfire when I was a kid. I know I gave my mom a run for her money and my dad sometimes, too. I gave my mom a harder time because she was safer – I knew I could act like a maniac and she’d still love me. I wasn’t so sure about my dad back then.

“Wait ‘till you have kids,” my mom used to say to me.

My dad will chuckle and start off with, “Well, if they’re anything like you were…” when I ask him parenting questions.

My kids are good kids. They’re special in their own unique ways. Oliver’s blend of curiosity meets hyperactive daredevil keeps my life interesting and Julia is three going on thirteen.

She has this inherent dramatic flare that courses through her veins – she’s sensitive and dramatic and once she gets going it’s very difficult to settle her. When she’s right in the thick of it I have moments where I don’t know what to do with her.

My mom could relate. She’d empathize and listen. I want so badly to be able to call her, just to hear her say she’s been there, done that with me – and survived. I close my eyes and imagine I’m on the phone with her.

I hear the flick of a lighter as she lights a cigarette, takes a long drag in and starts to talk through the smoke. I hear her giggle like she did sometimes when she recounted my obstinate toddler days and then I hear her sigh and say, “Ah, lambie. She’s just like you were.”

I know she is. I love it and I hate it. On many levels, I can relate to my daughter, to how she’s feeling and what she’s thinking, yet sometimes I watch her erupt and I’m flooded with helplessness. In the back of my mind, I think of my mom and the longing begins to creep in.

That raw, achy desire to talk to her and cry about how overwhelmed I am by my daughter’s behavior rises up from my ankles and grips my chest. It hits me then, hard, that the person who would understand the most is gone from my life.

On days when I’m hit like that, I go upstairs and sit on my bed and open my jewelry box. I breathe in deeply and imagine I’m burying my face in my mom’s neck or curling up next to her on her bed.

I breathe out, slowly.