This Friday is Mama’s birthday. She would have been 52. Last year, we spent the day together — I took the day off, and we wondered around aimlessly, but together. This year, Bobby and I are going out of town. I feel a twinge of guilt that I’m not spending the day with Daddy & sisters. But I know that this year’s different. We’re different people — the differences are small, imperceptible to most, but definitely there all the same.

So Bobby and I are heading to Asheville, NC on Thursday for 2 nights. He has a speaking engagement on Friday, during which I’ll just chill at the hotel. Then afterward, we’re going to do the Asheville tourist thing, which neither of us have ever done. No Biltmore this time… it’s beautiful and I love it, but it’s not free, whereas the downtown shops are. This trip is good for several reasons — distance from baby sadness, a much-needed getaway for just the two of us, and a change of scenery for Mama’s birthday.

Yesterday, I spent several hours in the back corner of our yard, raking, digging, and chopping. That corner of the yard is a lovely little shaded nook, complete with bench. I want to make it into a memory garden, a little corner that’s dedicated to the missing ones — our babies and my dear Mama. I’m going to plant forget-me-nots and bleeding hearts… appropriate, yes? Sometimes I can feel Mama’s presence, but it’s hard to envision her here with me. We bought this house after she left, and although I know that she would love it, I sometimes wish that I could actually picture her here in this house, in the yard. Yesterday as I was cleaning out that little corner nook, I felt very close to Mama — I could see her digging in her flower beds in her sunhat and flip-flops, the smell of freshly mowed grass and hot southern dirt. I could hear her saying “Queenie, come look at my flowers” — so proud of her irises that she would give me a guided tour of her flower beds. She called me “Queenie”… how I miss that.

“Miss.” It’s such a small word. You can miss a day of work, or miss your misplaced wallet. Or you can miss your mother because she lives in another state, or because she’s dead. Or you can miss your children because they’re at summer camp, or because you never had a chance to get to know them. It’s a stupid, inadequate, feeble little word that tries to communicate things that are much too big, much too painful.

I just feel a quiet sadness. Resigned — am beginning to accept that this really is permanent. I’ve known the permanence with my head for a long time. My heart is taking a while to catch up.