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I tried to remember my first memory of you, Mom.

I closed my eyes and combed through the catalogs in my mind,

Back to our first house with our thick-carpeted basement and the bunk beds I shared with Heather.

My mind filled with warmly lit images of picking those red poisonous berries and squishing them between my fingers, being careful not to eat them, believing if I did I would surely die.

Of the time my 6-year-old sister sat on my 4-year-old shoulders, then promptly fell off cracking her head open on the corner of a dresser.

I can still see the thin stream of blood spilling down the back of her head as you and Dad tended to her while she sat on the closed toilet lid.

I see babysitters I loved and the one who I didn’t like.

I see my angry little girl self as I hurled a vinyl record across the room and it crashed into 100 pieces against the paneled wall.

I see my sisters and I scrambling to turn off “The Simpsons” just as you arrived home.

I can see the time I went downstairs because I couldn’t sleep, to sit with Dad as he watched a knee surgery on TV. Equally interesting as it was scarring.

I can see images of playing with the neighbor kids, where “lipstick” is the magic password, everyone fights over being the name, “Crystal,” as we play “ship” and multiple combined back yards equal the endless wonderland called, “the forest.”

After all this searching, I cannot find my first memory of you. And even in these memories, I can’t remember what you did or said.

But I can feel you in every memory. A warm light. A quiet calm. You were always there, making these memories possible.

You were always there. You were never not there.

And now that I have my own children, and I feel as though I am never not with them. I am encouraged.

Because you always being there meant those memories had safety, rest, light and peace.

Because you bookend every memory with snacktime, dinnertime, nap- time, a comforting hug, an earned swat from the infamous wooden spoon, warm conversation and timely wisdom.

I love you, Mom. I could not find my first memory of you because you are in every memory I have.


Elisabeth Ryan Tomko lives outside of Boston with her husband, a kindergartner, and a preschooler. She works in anti-trafficking and loves to write for the creative joy it gives.