The car rolled to a stop and I grabbed my water bottle and duffel bag, clicked off my seat belt turned to mom in the Driver seat and said “Bye mom, I love you” before hopping out and starting towards the red brick building that I’d practice ballet in five days a week from the ages four to seventeen.
“Practice hard dear.” She’d say through the open window before accelerating away.
Similarly, when I got the call that I was cast as Lead in Swan Lake, I excitedly called my mom.
“Brianna, please don’t shriek in the phone.”
“Sorry Mom, Did you hear what I said? I got the part!”
“I did, Remember to practice hard, and make me proud” she’d say into the receiver.
“I will mom, I love you.”
“I need to get back to my luncheon, take care dear”
Or, on my wedding day, before she gave me away, I turned to her and whispered “I love you”. She quietly said “You made a good decision” and winked at me.
Even, when I gave birth to my son, as she held Sammy in her arms for the first time she looked down at his little face and said “This is a huge responsibility, Brianna”
“I know mom” I said. She lightly traced his brand new nose with her index finger. “Im very proud of you” I’m not even quite sure if this was to me or to him.
It wasn’t like I didn’t know she loved me. She did of course in her own way. She was a single mom and worked hard to teach me how to strive for perfection, to never settle for anything short of excellence. She never once lost her temper at me or even fell into a fit of laughter there was always this sense of self awareness she had. I remember this one single moment we were watching a tape of my art schools rendition of the Nutcracker and as she watched me on screen she let out a single tear, quickly wiped it away and folded her hands back into her lap. I pretended not notice, and never brought it up.
At my son’s 3rd birthday party she was visiting us in Florida and her cab pulled up so I grabbed her coat and purse as Brian took her bags to the back of the taxi
“Come say goodbye to Nana” I called to Sammy, who came sprinting into her arms.
“Bye Nana, I love you!” he exclaimed, She muffled something into the crook of his neck and he skipped back to his toys beaming.
She turned to me took her coat and her bag, pulled me into an embrace and said
“I love you too.” before sliding into the back of the car. I stood there frozen as I watched the car fade away in the distance until Brian asked
“You coming back in?” with a quizzical look.
Reflecting now, I should have seen the sign that those simple words were a clear indication of my mother losing her mind.