Rehtom — the first chapter


Do not stand at my grave and weep; I am not there, I do not sleep.”

–Irish proverb

                There are few things I can recall as clearly as the night she inspired my book.

                I can say this with confidence, because it’s now nearly ten years later, and I remember it as though it were yesterday.  I recall everything about it – her hair, her smile, her voice, the way the streetlights made her seem brighter, happier. 

                There are some moments, I suppose, I can recall better than others.

                We had stopped at Borders on our way back to the apartment.  I was itching for a new book; mom wanted to divert a little bit, take some time before going back to the apartment and vegging out in front of the TV for two whole days.  I was fine with whatever she wanted – that was usually the case, especially when it involved me getting a new book.

                My mom was suffering from a broken heart, and so was I.  We were trying to not be so attached, so pathetic (her words), and our remedy for that was to go to the bookstore.

                We’d made our purchases – I’d gone ahead and bought the second season of Grey’s Anatomy for mom.  Money was tight.  Mom was trying to make it on her own, and living in the city was not cheap.  I was happy to buy it for her.  I would have bought her everything in the bookstore if she’d let me, and I think she knew that (as an aside, that season of Grey’s is the only one still sitting in my makeshift DVD cabinet).

                As we walked out to the car that night, gabbing about our TV show and book, I revealed to her I was going to write a book.

                “You’ll call it Rehtom!” She proclaimed loudly.

                I eyed her with caution, knowing she had something up her sleeve.  “Because I’m on crack?”

                “No!  Because Rehtom is Mother spelled backwards!”

                She lost herself in a fit of giggles then, getting into the car.  I rolled my eyes, following suit.  Only my mom could come up with something like that – I’d told her as much.  She probably told me she knew – she was the only person with a mind that creative, or something along those lines.

                And we went back to her apartment, attempting to mend our broken hearts with ice cream and McDreamy.  It’s been almost eight years since that night; it’s been almost eight years since I spent my Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights in an apartment in Ashburn, Virginia, and yet I remember those days with ease. 

                I remember going to work, and coming home, and ordering pizza and staying up late.  I remember a fat cat named Mr. Big and a puppy named Gabi who was jealous of said cat.  I remember drinking wine and watching Gilmore Girls on Tuesday nights, talking about how when it was finally legal for me to drink we’d go to Vegas and order strippers and room service and have a party I was sure to never remember.  I remember setting off the smoke alarm because neither of us were particularly domestically inclined. 

                I remember small things, too, like how the fat cat liked to climb on top of mama’s chest and sleep there at night; or how she only liked to drink mocha fraps from Starbuck’s.  I remember the look she got on her face whenever J would call; and the heartache she felt whenever he didn’t.  I remember our shared heartache – and how we were there for each other when the men in our life weren’t.

                I remember it all.

                But most of all, I remember the night she inspired my book, and how she encouraged me to write it.  I remember her asking me all about it – what kind of book it was going to be (Young Adult, in the style of Sarah Dessen or Ann Brashares), what it would be about (a girl’s journey of discovery, with a love story thrown in for good measure), and the names of the characters (which will not be divulged, on the off chance I do decide to write it one day).

                All of that changed one January afternoon, though, when the snow outside had melted, but the ice in my heart had only just begun to form – but I don’t want to give away the story before it’s even begun.  My mother would chastise me for that – she used to get so mad when I gave away the whole story before it had even started.  So… I’ll save the details – except for that one.

                My mom inspired much of what I do, and the only way I could think to honor her – honor her memory and her smile and the way her eyes lit up when she got excited about something – was to write this book, and I had to give this book the title my mom picked out.  I don’t think she’d let me live it down if I didn’t do it.  Besides, this is her story I’m about to tell… and mine.

                This is as much my story as it is my mom’s.  I was only 19 years of my mom’s life, but she was (and still is) my entire life.  Her story is my story – her heartaches were my heartaches.  I don’t think there’s been one moment of my life that I have not shared with her in some capacity.

                So, readers, thank you for indulging me.  Thank you for wanting to know more about the woman who shaped every single day of my 19 years, three months, four weeks, and one day that I got to spend with her.  I hope you find it worthwhile.  I hope you find her journey as inspiring as I still do.  I hope you find her story as awe-inspiring as I do.

                And, mama, thank you for inspiring me.  I’m finally doing it.  I’m finally putting pen to paper (or… fingers to keyboard) and writing your story.  I’m sorry it took me so long.


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