I’ve been dreaming about Mom a lot. Nothing earth shattering, and usually the dreams really aren’t even technically about her. She just appears a lot more often than she used to – in a group setting, out of nowhere, as someone I’m seeing casually, as if there were nothing unusual about it.

It’s not surprising at all. Of course she’s at the forefront of my mind. And of course my subconscious is steadily working through things. I like to think of it chugging away in the background, helping me make sense of it all, because lord knows my waking mind could use the help.

We went to see Mary Poppins a couple weeks ago and afterward Matthew told me he’d been concerned how it would hit me as we watched because neither of us realized how much the plot dealt with the subject of grief. And yes, the movie did in fact get me in a few places, but the funny thing is that it didn’t get me anywhere near as badly as that fucking preview for the live action Dumbo movie. Now that snuck up on me.

I had’t known until then that they were even making a live action Dumbo, and as soon as I realized what it was I leaned over to Matthew and whispered in a snarky tone “Oh, so we’re doing this now?” I don’t even like Dumbo. It’s treacly and dude, racist crows. But I just didn’t put together until the music started that a remake of that movie meant the song Baby Mine. And when they showed Dumbo’s mom in the cage and played that song, I lost my shit. It was the first time I’d cried over Mom in a while, probably a couple months.

When I was little I would get very, very anxious whenever I was separated from Mom. Even trips to see my grandparents, which I looked forward to, would often involve tearful homesick episodes. Although I outgrew the tearful “I miss my Mama” part, the reluctance to be away from her lasted into my mid teenage years. We used to be so close.

The first time I saw Dumbo, during that scene (In case you haven’t seen it, Dumbo’s mother is put in a cage and she rocks baby Dumbo through the bars with her trunk while singing Baby Mine to him) the emotions were too intense for me and I crawled into Mom’s lap and sucked my thumb while she rocked me.

And now that song will be back in modern culture for a while because of that fucking live action movie that I don’t even have the slightest interest in seeing. Great.

I changed my phone’s wallpaper (previously an artist’s decorative version of a photo of Maria Hinojosa) to a collage I put together with a photo editing app; one of my favorite pictures of Mom repeated in four boxes with varying color overlays. In the picture she’s probably late twenties or early thirties, and her expression is so very, very her – compelling and fierce, beautiful but also giving no fucks.

It feels odd because I never, ever would have wanted her picture as a wallpaper when she was alive. And that’s something I’ll be reckoning with for a long, long time I think. I don’t romanticize her – hell, towards the end of her life there were two years when we only saw each other once a year, despite the fact that she lived all of two miles away, so it’s not even like I really feel her absence in my day-to-day life. I’ve spent a long, long time getting used to not having a mother in the way I longed for. (Sometimes I find myself looking for a mother when I meet older women that I get along with, but that probably needs to be another post.)

I suppose in a way I wonder if maybe she can be a better spirit animal to me than she was a mother. That sounds trite but now that she’s gone I find myself imagining her as being stripped of the torment of mental illness and physical pain – as if wherever she is, if she is in fact anywhere, she’s more herself. And I wonder, if it weren’t for the voices she lived with constantly, if it weren’t for the crushing blackness and chronic pain, what kind of conversations we’d be able to have. Maybe I’m more free to imagine that now, now that I know for certain that it will never, ever happen, than I was before – because before thinking about it would bring the danger that I might start to hope for it, and hoping for it only ever led to disappointment.

Maybe that’s part of what my subconscious is doing with the dreams. Injecting her into normal (well, “normal” in dreamland) situations, imagining a landscape where we could be a “normal” mother and daughter. I know that she wanted it as much as I did, but it just wasn’t something she could do. And honestly I’m not even sure I know who she would have been if it hadn’t been for the torments that she’d been fighting for far longer than I’ve even been alive.

But I see that young fierce face on my phone and though yes, there is grief, there’s also a sense of trying to normalize all of it. She loved me very much, always did. If things between us could have remained as simple as they were when I was tiny she would still have been rocking me to Baby Mine. But there was too much in the way. It seems odd that it feels like there’s less in the way now that she’s dead, but there you have it.