She’s been here in the house since she died. It is freaking out the kids, her visitations. We see her in our peripheral vision, a shadow where there is nothing blocking the light source. A displacement of air in the bottom bunk bed. A floor board creak. A heaviness in the upstairs of our home, as though showing off that she now can make it up all sixty stairs from the street, and the ten more inside our home. Claudio and I call our home “The Mother-in-Law Free Zone” since neither of our mothers can easily climb stairs. We don’t get Avon ladies or Trick-or-Treaters or Politicians here, but ghosts, Momma Bean’s floater got no issue with stairs.
Bedtime, never easy, has become impossible.
“NO! Grandma Beanie climbs in Lily’s bed at night and it totally creeps me out.”
“Ok, I will deal with her!” I say. “Next time it happens, wake me up.”
A brokered peace and we are all tucked in for about 45 minutes when I hear Sofia scream: “She’s here!”
“She’s HERE, mom!” she yells again. It wakes me out of my drifting pre-sleep, that sweet place it’s so painful to be wrested out of, so I say, “Okay, honey,” because I agreed to come and because the pronounced sense of a body plunking into bed, her dead grandmother, must be unbearably creepy to deal with alone.
I leave Lily in my bed with her dad, her sleepy voice saying, “Don’t go, momma, I need you.”
“It’s my Momma, Lily. I’m going to sleep with her one last time.”
I crawl in between Lily’s pink llama flannels, say, “Momma, I get why you’re here, but I’m okay. You can go rest. You’ve done so much for me; you of all my loves deserve a rest. I spent hours on google looking for a box for your ashes. I ordered you a mini-wooden cabin with an outhouse option. I couldn’t imagine you in some hokey box with a quotation and outline of an eagle or mountain range. I ordered two crafty cabins, one for each Bean sister, we split you even-stevens.”
The bed is quiet, I get no response, no shimmer, no whisper of a breeze, but I believe Sofia. She is not the child prone to woo-woo, not like Lily and I. If she said Momma Bean is here, she is, even if I can’t sense her much, other than scanty hope. I’d like to see her ghost. I’ll stay in this bed all night, even though my toes hang off the edge, even though Lily has more than 25 stuffed bunnies in here so I can barely move between the ghost of Momma Bean and all the stuffed animal clutter. I’ll follow Momma Beanie to the moon and back for one more moment with her, my sweet, deliciously odd Momma Bean.
Kristi said she felt her after she passed also, she came to her during a nap, also in bed.
“How’d you know it was her?”
“I had the sensation of so much irritation I could barely breathe. It was her.”
“Momma,” I continue. “I know you know how I feel, because you used to tell me how much you missed your mom after she died. I got to have so many conversations with you in this lifetime. You were so kind to me always, even when I was such a shit, and I love the parts of me that remind me of you, even my ability to go to Whole Foods looking like crap warmed over because you gave me nare’ do care about my general lookiness. I’m able to go to lunch in Beverly Hills sans Botox because you were my Momma. I know little girls love their mommas, but I have to say, I think I love you more than most. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to talk to you often or look you in the eyes. I wish I was able to look at you more when you were alive.”
The last Thanksgiving, we spent together was during the heat of Claudio’s madness, my own madness, and I was a gimp of a person. Momma Bean sat opposite me at the round table Kristi served dinner on. I hardly said two words to her. Kristi later told me Momma Bean peed on the chair-—her body had been shutting down for years, YEARS, it’s why I thought she’d never die, Momma Bean, who broke a wine glass with her spazzing out hand at our wedding, some nerve reaction that caused her to crush two wine glasses in her hand. It was the last time she visited here at our home. I think she willed herself up our stairs. She gave me away to Claudio. My mother-in-law called the day after the wedding to tell me she thought my mother was a drunk.
“She’s not a drunk. She’s Momma Bean. She’s constantly dying.” It’s hard to explain to new in-laws.
After the funeral, mortician John who buries all Beans hands her to me. “Not much left, is there?” She is inside a white paper bag with little white handles, something light enough to carry a lunch in. It has the name of the funeral home on the outside, and inside there is a cardboard box with my half of Momma Bean in it. And a death certificate so I can fly with her.
I fly out of Ketchum and she keeps setting off the TSA alarms, they have to open her box and put a metal screen over her, I suppose to make sure I’m not bringing something terrorist-y on the plane. The Idahoan who has to keep scanning her keeps apologizing, he knows. I hear him whisper to the younger guy, “It’s her mom.” I don’t cry. I don’t feel anything really, other than sorry for him because it must be pretty awkward to scan and rescan someone’s Momma. I think about the time Momma gave me a jack-a-loupe at the Boise airport, wrapped in a pink flowery pillowcase and how the TSA guy there also let me fly with it, because “it looked tame to him” and how odd and lovely it is that my inheritance from her is a jack-a-loupe, bones and ashes, and all her sweet small town Idahoness. Her hokeyness. Her non-Los Angeles fabulousness. I wouldn’t trade her for anyone. Not anyone, anyone, even someone with a $500 haircut and a Chanel pantsuit, what she often accused me of wanting in a mother.
She’s on the top shelf in my office next to my AA big book. I sold the jack-a-loupe at a yard sale ten years ago because Claudio couldn’t stand a dead animal in the house. We disagree on the artistry of taxidermy. I ordered a new one yesterday from an online retailer.
I fall asleep in Lily’s bed talking until sleep like she used to do for me when I was little. I wake hours later and pad back into my own bed.
She’s not been back since.