Where did you get these, Artie asked me in a recent dream, referring to letters I had received.
Right here, I could have answered. This right here, this dream, is a letter.
And where I get them is obvious then:
In my sleep, in that nightly time-and-space travel we do.
My mind (when it’s open) being the mailbox.
Mama’s cameos in my dreams have been more frequent again lately. Last night we sat together just here in a corner of our living room, the one by the window with the fire escape.
It’s where many mornings, as soon as I pull open our new curtains, I hear the whistle of a mourning dove flying off. And once the bird has left, I realize its cooing had been there gracing our morning.
In this latest dream I asked Mama for advice.
“What do I do when you’re not here?”
She didn’t reply, but looked at me expectantly – what do you do?
“I look for people like you,” I answered myself.
This answer seemed okay with her. Without any words she said: Yes, why don’t you do that? And you know not to be literal about it.
Yes, I know not to be literal.
There is no one just like her.
That thought brings up a word she used to enjoy using:
That name from her was really a badge of excellence. What its holders excelled at was being themselves. And true to themselves.
She wouldn’t have applied this to herself, but to people she admired in their unapologetic peculiarity. The man, woman or child she’d call an Unikum had a whiff of legend about him or her, some strange habits, and a wild sense of fun.
I believe one such Unikum was her uncle by marriage, Onkel Hermann. He was the guy who first married one twin sister and, upon her death, married the single remaining twin. Both widower and bereaved twin must have found much consolation in this union.
But I think only a true Unikum would have had the balls to propose to his sister-in-law. (In all this I will gladly stand corrected by people who knew Onkel Hermann better than I did…)
Mama did not live or show much of her Unikum nature. But it was there. She was a closeted Unikum, and I wish she could still have had more of old age – to come out of that closet and delight in being peculiar.
So since, deep down, my mother was an Unikum, and since uniqueness is the one and only thing we all share, I know not to look for any one person like her.
Instead I have found people who share some of her traits:
One of my friends is deeply respectful and caring in a way she was.
One dresses with the kind of appreciation she had for nice clothes.
One is as intrigued by Hildegard von Bingen as she was.
One laughs like she did.
One loves the deep-digging conversation she liked to engage in.
One is the kind of fun-loving extrovert she often gravitated to.
One is reserved and cautious about her feelings the way she was.
One has her patience and kindness and unwavering optimism.
And the list doesn’t end here…
All of them are people whose company she had or would have enjoyed. All of them are people I was raised to appreciate since it was she who raised me.
So that is the thing to do since Mama is no longer here. Recognize in others what I loved in her and cherish it. And, most importantly, seeing that I am one of these others.