Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Treasures: A Note from Mom

Had my mother lived, 
she would have turned 68 this month. This picture of her
(with my sister and I, one of whom had sense enough to keep her mouth closed)
was taken when she was barely twenty-five.

When my sister, Anne, was here recently for a wedding,
we went through some of mom's old boxes,
things we'd been threatening to sort through for years
but never got around to. 
(Always there are innumerable people for her to see, hometown things 
to eat, do and revisit while she is here.) 

Two days before she and I began sorting through boxes,
I'd been lamenting the fact that no one on this earth could now tell me 
where we'd lived in Anoka, Minnesota the summer I was six.
 No one was alive who could provide me with a physical address
in case someday I wanted to search it out. 
And while sifting through dusty reel-to-reel tapes of her old radio shows,
audition tapes and personality interviews,
I found an envelope with guess-what on it; 
our address-
in Anoka, Minnesota. 
(D'accord, Anoka. Someday I'm coming out there
in search of this here address,
hoping to find out if there's still a door, a window or a building left standing.
And maybe to do a little research on where ya'll got your name.) 

The other treasure in this box of things that was not letters,
was a note, addressed to me,
a simple little note
probably written when I was my niece's age
(a teenager). 

On the back was a very short shopping list, the two things on it crossed out
 (which you can nearly see in the lower right corner).
Even this little shopping list was special to me. 
The two items were stationery and env (for envelopes).

When I was 13 (probably around the time this note was written),
mom and I made dates to write cards and letters together. 
At our little house on Russian Hill in San Francisco,
we would get out our stationery and pens,
candles and incense, music and tea
and we would sit together at the kitchen table, 
writing friends and relatives.

A few months before she died,
while struggling with the pain and the terrifying
realization of the finality of terminal cancer,
she wrote me a note on the back of a postcard which she handed to me when I came in the door.
It was one of the beach-lined cards we'd bought for her in Hawaii,
a trip made in between chemo treatments a few months before,
to a place she'd always wanted to see.
Our last trip together.

She wrote:
"Let's make a letter-writing date.
You bring the incense,
I'll bring the candles."
She died not long after. 

 I've decided to frame the recently found note about the clothes
and hang it on the wall in my laundry room.
While looking for the right frame, I've kept it in my office
propped at eye level where I can see it from my desk chair. 
But as I sat in said chair the other day, the day of her birth 68 years ago,
I saw that the note was cut off by something in front of it
and all I could see was,
Please put..."

So, as I sat there, thinking of her on her birthday,
 I did a short writing exercise
asking what she would say to me now
and here is what went on the page:

Please put...

                                                              * my love for you in a safe, airy place.
                                                              *your love in my suitcase.
                                                              *your dreams down on paper.
                                                              *your ideas into action.
                                                              *your story out there.
                                                              *our lives together in perspective.
                                                              *your relationships in order.
                                                              *compassion at the top of your list.
                                                              *your fears away."

Happy Birthday Mom!
I love you
and you are missed.
And I'm going downstairs right now
to put my clothes away.


  1. Oh Kirsten, I am all choked up- what an absolutely touching post..Your Mom must have been a wonderful lady. I love the picture of the 3 of you- and she's so beautiful.

    I can't think of anything more precious than moments spent together (candle light and all) to do some writing-such an enlightening, peaceful and giving activity that nurtures the spirit sublimely. It explains alot about the interest and kindness you have towards others...looks like your mom planted those magical seeds in you...You must really miss her. Thanks for sharing something so personal, beautiful and moving. Have a wonderful rest of the week:)

  2. funny how we just got off the phone after an hour of such a great talk and i come to look at this page and i am flooded with emotion and beautiful and honest. Thank you for writting this K.

  3. Kirsten,

    This post makes me tear up. What a treasure you have. I don't mean your note, though it is. I mean the heart of your mother that lives on in you. When I read your little note, I was struck by the deep affection and gentle good manners that were evident. When I read your writing exercise, I know that though you lost her far too soon, she lives in you. And she managed to give you so many gifts. How blessed you have been. I hope to be just such a mother.

  4. Oh dearest, I am so, work here at HOME keeps me busy these evenings, but I want to say that my momma died at 63 and I LIVE IN MINNEAPOLIS MINNESOTA! I know Anoka well! SO you know the cold weather....and I have just ONE dear letter from my mom when I moved to Boston, Mass. from California. I need to pull that out sometime, but even after 23 years of her passing, it is still too painful for me to see her affairs....oh well, c'est la vie, et la mort....

    Peace dearest, Anita

  5. *sniff*
    Thank you for this sweet post. Today I shall put compassion at the top of my list.
    Be well and be strong.

  6. Dear Kirsten,
    This was beautiful and moving...such a wonderful story of things lost and found. I do hope you get to go back to find your old home. I love your writing exercise...
    Have a lovely weekend, my friend -

  7. This is so beautiful and touching, Kirsten. I am sure your mother would be so proud. Happy V Day!

  8. Awww...that was so sweet and touching. How special that you found the address.
    Yes I lived on Union Street in Pacific Heights and went to school a few blocks from the Palace of Fine Arts, and then on Treasure Island ~ I have to think real hard on the years....hmmm...1973 through 77, something like that? Moved to Hawaii after that then back to Marin County, then LA then here!
    You might enjoy the photo recreations I posted about...
    Hope you are well,

  9. Kirsten, I am teary-eyed--your mother was so ungodly beautiful and strange, odd, like me and Randy too. I love love love the closeness and tenderness in this piece of writing. she would love it too, does love it too.

  10. I can only say how that made me cry, how happy I am you found both items, and how I love your mom's words channeled through you. She would have loved that you did that. Blessings & love


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