Before I went in for my first round of chemo-therapy, I decided to try to spend some quality time with each of my three children: Ben (20), Katya (18), and David(11). Ben was away at university, 16 hours away and so he had to wait for a time when Kevin and I could fly him home. I was, however, able to do something special with both Katya and David.
David is, what the French would call, a minuche. I don’t know how that is spelled, but it is French for snuggle-bunny. He has always been “mamma’s” little boy and is very affectionate. There is no more special time than time spent snuggling on the couch – or snuggling to tuck him in to bed for the night. What to do that was special with David was easy: I pulled him out of school for a day to play “hooky”. David loves board games and above all other games – he loves Monopoly. I hate Monopoly. I remember a time in my life when Monopoly monopolized my free time. As I aged, however, it was difficult to be able to sit and roll the dice for hours at a time to acquire property and money. The challenge presented by this game just seemed to be so less enticing. Yet, David loves Monopoly and so it was this game that was on the table for our special day together. It was going to be a challenge to switch his thinking to a “compromise”.
Fortunately, David also enjoys a game called “The Settlers of Catan” which requires a bit more strategy and it is slightly educational as well. Players settle tracts of land where they use available resources to build cities, communities, and trade routes. This was the game that David and I settled on for our day together. You would have thought David died and went to Heaven – and the same went for me. How wonderful was the simple pleasure of playing Settlers with my youngest son. A diagnosis like cancer makes you open your heart to embrace the simple things, open your eyes to see things you have never payed attention to before, and to say things you have always thought but never articulated. My boy, sitting across from me, filled my heart with joy. He made me laugh. When did he develop a sense of humor? He made me feel like “the best mom in the whole world. And even if I had a Mom that bought me everything I ever wanted and cooked me everything I ever wanted, I will still choose you, Mom”. Those were his words on our day together.
After Settlers, we tackled Scrabble. Being in a French school, I wasn’t sure how David would do with this English game. Why did I not know? Why had I not had a handle on his language skills? Where was I when he was growing up? It turns out, he was good. He played fair. He did his best. He enjoyed the challenge of words. I enjoyed him. And so proceeded our hooky day together until it ended with a snuggle and a “bonne nuit, beaux reves” tuck -in at the end of the day.
My daughter and I decided that a shopping trip to the Mall would be in order for our day together. She and I hate shopping, but I convinced her that I needed some new clothes in which to fight my battle for good health. She drove. When did she grow to be so tall? How is it that she knows how to curl her hair in such a way that it falls like golden threads down her back? She parked in my preferred spot at the Mall. Thank goodness. I have become quite set in my ways in terms of parking as I grow older. “If you park in the same spot each time, you never have to wonder where you park.” I used to explain to Katya. Oh, boy. When did I get to be so old as to develop strategies for parking?
The mall was not particularly busy that day – which is a good thing for two women who don’t like to shop. We walked from store to store. Whereas I normally hate browsing – that day I enjoyed it. Why had I not seen the comradery of finding something beautiful that would make you feel like a million bucks before? I used to shop all the time with my Mom both for she and I. I knew whenever I went out with her I would end up being on the receiving end of purchase. As much as I hated our excursions in the beginning, I ended up with wonderful memories of she and I – being together – sharing intimate moments when I would “approve” or “disapprove” of a new outfit. This is what I wanted to share with Katya. I was on a mission.
Into Roots we went. Normally, this is the kind of store I avoid. The clothes are beautiful, but rather expensive and I was always very careful with the cost of things. This day, however, I threw my budgetary shackles to the wind. “These pants are great, Katya.” I gestured. “Do you like them?” I was shocked when she did – and even more shocked when she tried them on. She looked beautiful. Katya is always beautiful, but this day she was radiant. The pants were a hit.
“Let’s get them.” I exclaimed.
“Mom – they are too expensive.” was Katya’s reply.
“Nonsense. Not today they aren’t. And I’m going to buy this sweater.” I said referring to a warm, soft, fuzzy sweater I had happened upon at the front of the store. “This is my warrior jacket that will help me to defeat cancer. I will wear it when I need strength. I will wear it when I am feeling weak – and I will remember this day with you as the day that I prepared for battle.”
And away we went. We were almost giddy with the new purchases. And we made a couple more. I had become my mother. What great satisfaction I got from shopping with my daughter.
I wore the jacket several times after that and Katya would note that I was in warrior mode. When my hair started to fall out, however, the jacket became a magnet for the random strands. I couldn’t stand it and decided to wash it – – and then it was mistakenly dried in the dryer. You can imagine what happened to a jacket made from cotton and wool. The jacket was rendered “useless”. And that was that. I figured there was nothing I could do about it and I put the jacket aside as a kind of sentimental memorial.
Much to my surprise, my daughter took it upon herself to write, “Roots” and explain to them about my “warrior jacket”. She emailed her gratitude for the design and request for a replacement. In her email, she chronicled our adventure and the story behind the warrior jacket. Shockingly enough, the company responded affirmatively and exclaimed how touched they had been by her story. I think I cried when she took photos of the jacket to send to the company so they could seek a replacement. The jacket was still only a jacket – a nice one albeit. It was the “fight” that my daughter had in her that touched me the most. This was Katya’s stand with me against cancer. She was in my corner.
Neither David, nor Katya, nor even Ben are inclined to speak about cancer and the battle we are involved in very much. But, much like my Dad, I know they are standing behind me, ready to catch me if I fall. It is their smallest of gestures that mean the most to me and it is for them I must take up my arms and don my warrior jacket so that I can be there behind them throughout their own lives – to fight for them – to be their “best Mom ever”.