Her name was Eleanor, my husband’s mother, but I always called her Mrs. Spaulding. I smile when someone calls me that today.
I met Mrs. Spaulding when I began dating Jon, back in 1995, and I liked her right away. She was warm and welcoming and probably excited to have a girl around the house since she had given birth to three boys. She was light-hearted, an excellent cook, and would sometimes break out in a modest dance while moving around the kitchen in her apron. She is the person from which my husband gets his goofy ways–one of my favorite things about him. Over time, the longer we dated, his home slowly became my second home. I spent so much time at Jon’s house, and with his parents, that I could drive from my house to his, blindfolded, and predict every turn, every dip in the road and every frost heave along the way.
Sometimes, the four of us (me, Jon and his mom and dad) would sit in their tiny living room and watch Wheel of Fortune or Entertainment Tonight. Sometimes, I would just sit in the kitchen and chat with her while she cooked. Sometimes, if I spent the night because I was too tired to drive home at 1:00 in the morning, she was bit more quiet with me the next morning and I felt guilty.
For four years, I slowly became part of the family. By our third Christmas together, she started signing my gifts “love, mom and dad”. She smiled and winked at me and said, “It’s time you started calling us mom and dad”.
When I graduated from college in May of 1999, Mrs. Spaulding gave me a beautiful framed picture as a graduation gift. It was a stunning photograph of Mt. Mansfield with a full moon overhead, and snow on the tips of its peaks. At 21 years of age, it felt like a mature gift to me. Something you might give someone who was older and more settled. Someone who might appreciate it more than I probably did at the time. At 22, I was feeling more and more restless in life and in my relationship with Jon. After 4 years of coming home from college to spend every weekend with him, I felt like I wanted to bust out of my skin.
So, shortly after my graduation, shortly after she gave me the beautiful photo of Mt. Mansfield, I broke up with her son. We were apart for 7 years. While we did stay in touch and hang out every now and then, I never seemed to feel ready to settle down yet.
But, I never once lost track of Mrs. Spaulding’s photograph. For whatever reason, I brought that framed photograph with me through 5 different apartments, through a handful of different relationships and packed and re-packed it in numerous boxes that held other things that I kept in the back of closets. One time, after I had moved out of an apartment with two other girls and settled into my own, I realized that I had left the photograph on a shelf, high up in my old bedroom closet that was then being occupied by another person. I raced back to that apartment days later, ran to the closet, threw open the door and was relieved when I reached my hand up, felt around in the dust and it landed on the picture.
On a September day, in 2003, I remember driving home from work one afternoon and my mother calling me on my cell phone to tell me that Mrs. Spaulding had died. She had suffered a brain aneurism. I had to pull over as I tried to wrap my brain around the fact that she was gone, and that her son, whom I had loved so very much, was in an enormous amount of pain. The next time I would see him, and her, would be at her wake.
7 years after I broke up with Jon, 7 years after I got out whatever craziness it was that I needed to get out, we eventually came back together again. After having spent 7 years trying to “find myself”, I realized that I never actually felt more myself than when I was with him, and everything became very crystal clear to me.
So much time had passed, that we quickly began starting out lives together. We married, had our first son in 2007 and then a year later, found out we were pregnant with our second son. With this news, we decided to build our own house back near our hometown, where all of our friends and family lived.
After living with my own mother for a few months, moving in with Jon’s father for a couple of months, waddling around taking care of my older son while my younger son incubated, studying for my licensing exam in Psychology and while Jon helped with the building of our new house, we were finally able to move in one month after my younger son arrived, in May of 2009
After 4 years together, 7 years apart, two boys and our own home, we both felt like we had finally arrived. On the day we moved in, my husband and I were standing at our big back-deck windows, overlooking where our deck would eventually be, taking in the beautiful view that was our backyard.
“Wow, look at those mountains. What a gorgeous view we have!” I said, my husband coming up beside me, nodding his head.
“Yup, I believe that’s Mt. Mansfield” he said back to me, “you can still see some snow on its peaks”.
At his words, I froze for only a second, as my heart began beating and I caught my breath, before quickly turning around, running into the dining room and opening the brown box that I had placed on the dining room table. On top, sat the photograph that Mrs. Spaulding had given me exactly ten years before, almost to the day, when I graduated in May of 1999.
I ran back into the kitchen unable to get my words out fast enough as I held up the picture next to our window, with two mirror images of Mt. Mansfield: one from exactly 10 years ago, and one of the view that we would have in our home every single day. I will never, ever forget that moment, as we stood in silence in our new home together letting this discovery sink in.
I felt close to Mrs. Spaulding when she was alive. I loved her, I enjoyed spending time with her and we got along very well. I can honestly say, that even though she isn’t here to hug or talk to, I still feel close to her. I still talk to her sometimes, when I don’t understand my husband or I feel like I just wish she were here to give me advice on something, and there have been times when she has made it clear to me that she is listening.
We hung her picture on the wall right next to our deck windows, just as a reminder that she is here watching over us, which feels so good–although when I’ve lost my cool with my husband and said something not-so-nice to him, I do tend to wince at the thought that she probably saw that.
Her birthday is today and Mother’s Day is Sunday. We’ve also been in our home exactly 7 years, this special month of May. We are thinking of her and missing her and thanking her.
Happy Birthday and Happy Mother’s Day……….Mom.