I drive towards West 11th from Point Grey Rd. pretending my mom is still alive, sitting by the back door, a smoke in her hand, CBC playing in the background, getting ready for her G & T at 5 pm sharp. I pretend I can turn right, at Alma, past Highbury, up the long hill and park there, under the shade of the towering cherry trees and arrive home.
I pretend she never went away; that my bed is made and my laundry has been done and the chaos of my room ordered into a softly neat pile of clothing on my bed, folded with tidy, loving care. I pretend when I get out of my car there’ll be Queen playing through the front windows of our house, thundering loudly as my big Irish Canadian family walk in and out the front and back doors, lie in the back yard, sit on the roof and smoke where they won’t be caught; somewhere a party gets planned for the night and my only thought would be what to wear?
My mother didn’t mind the loud music, she didn’t mind the hoards of friends traipsing in and out of the house, she didn’t mind our constant eating and showering and leaving lights on, or inviting someone for dinner at the last minute. “I’ll just throw another potato in the pot” she’d say. She just wanted us at home, where we’d be more safe than where she couldn’t see us, though that wasn’t always the case for me.
I look up at my old bedroom window and remember how I woke in the summer when I was little: leaping up, staring out over Point Grey, counting the boats in English Bay, the rumbling of traffic beginning, doors letting dogs out, sun rising, the whole city before me. I was a tomboy, lean, with hardened feet from climbing trees and running in the dirt. Now my toes are painted and soft and less inclined to risk falling.
I can almost smell her Chanel No. 5. I can almost feel where I’d put my head, resting on her shoulder, just for a moment, and be her daughter again.