>Is this heaven?

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It was the trip we talked about taking when my mother was well again. Now it would be a bittersweet journey for my Dad, my husband and me.. After years apart, my Dad would be reunited with his baby sister and see the Pacific ocean for the first time. My husband could finally meet the heroes he had been hearing so much about.. And I would reconnect with the aunt who was the idol of my childhood. All this happening against the backdrop of the stunningly beautiful Oregon Northwest and the beach at Seal Rock.

Since the first time I saw the ocean at 18, I have been a disciple of the waves. I cannot stay away from the water for very long, and during times when leaving the desert was not an option, I ached for the sounds and smells found only at the beach. The last time I tried to describe these feelings to my mother, she told me that she wanted to see the ocean with me. She wanted to see it through my eyes. I promised her we would go.

It is Sunday, Father’s Day and four months to the day since her death. Our party of five is standing on a beach that is unlike any I have ever witnessed. It is cloudy and dark. Fog is hovering over the water and an eerie mist is rising from the sand. I feel like I am in a dream. The wave’s mantra echoes everywhere and down the beach a cathedral of rocks has been bared by a rare low tide. Oh, how she would love this…

We have come to pay tribute to her; to bury our sacred capsule beneath part of a huge tree washed ashore and permanently anchored in the sand. A hole in the tree leaves a window to the ocean. We take turns digging silently and then stand in reverence with our regrets. As we walk away to the rocks towering in the mist, it starts to rain. I carry a glass cylinder with a picture of my mother inside. I will scramble to the top of a rock to throw it into the sea.

For all my efforts to find my mother since she went away, to feel her spirit, experience her energy or will her into my dreams, it was finally by the ocean that I felt closest to her. I believe it was her love and longing for us that created the ethereal landscape on the beach that day. Her essence was as tangible as the rocks we gathered as mementos.

As if any of us will ever forget….

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>Time in Wonderland

>My three daughters and I escaped the city last weekend to initiate what we hope becomes a new tradition. We called it The Girlie Getaway. We didn’t plan anything other than to spend time together. We shared iPod music from Frank Sinatra to Lady Gaga. We polished toenails and French-braided hair. We soaked in the hot tub, cooked a big breakfast, gazed at stars (and planets) only visible in the mountains, got a little drunk and celebrated as the walls came down. Each brought something to contribute and I believe, something to leave behind as well.

Renting a weekend condo with No Boys Allowed was largely inspired by what didn’t ever happen between my mother, my two sisters and me. For all my presumed oldest-daughter closeness to my Mom, there is so much I didn’t know about her. Underneath her shoulds (there were many) and secrets, I like to imagine that she was a little more rebellious, a little less reserved, and a little more like me. I also imagine that my sisters and I could have forged deeper relationships with her and with each other if we could have spent time together; just the four of us. I am dealing now with who she wasn’t, and am haunted by questions I either never thought of or cared enough to ask her.

Unable to distinguish my motivations from epiphany or insanity at this point, I simply want my daughters to know me. I want us to feel safe together and to support and encourage each other. Most of all, I want them to know the unconditional love that my Mother was never able to fully grant me or my sisters.

As our foursome curled up for a Saturday matinee, I didn’t know how female-empowerment-appropriate our choice would be.  It was a beautiful version of  Alice in Wonderland. At one point Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter says to Alice, “You used to be much more…”much-ier.” You’ve lost your much-ness.”

Oh, I know what it’s like to lose your much-ness…some of mine went with my Mother. But when I am around the amazing women in my life; my daughters or my sisters, I feel like I have a good chance of finding it again.