It was Earth Day 1990.
I picked up my mother's ashes then picked up my friend, who was waiting on the front steps of her Boston townhouse. Like me, she was dressed in jeans and sneakers.
"I tried to find out from Emily Post what to wear on an illegal ash scattering of a woman I didn't like. I couldn't find anything."
My mother had often been my enemy. Besides trying to have my marriage annulled and reporting me to child welfare for abusing my daughter (I hadn't and was exonerated thanks to my daughter's teachers, father and many others).
Still I had been my mother's caretaker during her final cancer having returned from Europe to do so. More for me knowing I needed to put certain things to rest or face years of psychiatry than daughterly devotion.
I did find a solution -- that there was no solution, we were too far apart but trying brought me a peace that might otherwise have escaped me. Still it took about ten years for good memories to sneak in.
The weather was beautiful as only a New England spring can be when it makes up its mind.
I had my two Japanese chins, Albert and Amadeus, with us. We stopped at McDonald's dividing a big Mac between "the boys" as well eating our own.
My brother met me near the forest where my mother wanted as her final resting place. Although it was against the law, we would honor her wishes. Certainly she was sanitary after the high heat that reduced her body.
We tramped thru the woods. My brother almost forgot to hold a branch and remembered to grab it just before it hit me.
I saw a lady slipper, illegal to pick, but my grandfather would pick one for my grandmother every spring. He would pick it on his own property. Maybe lawlessness ran in the family.
We found a spot that we thought would work. We remembered what the funeral director said about wind direction and not wanting to wear her ashes.
We opened the cardboard box.
My mother looked like kitty litter.
Some of the smaller pieces were caught by the wind. As I watched them swirl, I thought of all the power I had given her, the fear I had to stand up to her and I had given it to ashes. Maybe if I had been sronger, the relationship would have been different.
We didn't say any prayers. She had had a memorial service and none of us were really religious.
We were silent as we walked back to our cars.
From that day on anyone who gives me problems I picture them as kitty litter blowing in the wind.
It was a final gift from a rocky relationship.