Spoiler: The Boy Dies at the Beginning

Photographer: Paige Six

I watched Grave of the Fireflies this morning and hate how I can’t suspend my belief enough to imagine there’s a life after death. I’m stuck on how depressing and terrible the life the main character lived was, and no reassurance of heaven from any book or mouth can quell the nausea. Maybe I’ve spent too many years in foster care to enjoy these kinds of films, despite how much I truly appreciate them.

I think about the things we carry, the way Seita carried his mother’s ashes and his father’s photograph only to lose them, to die in squalor with nothing more than a tin of his sister’s ashes on his person. To live a lonely life where possessions are truly meaningless in comparison to the loss. Seita was berated by disdain from his family and at large society since the day his mother passed on throughout the film. It was hard to watch.

I think about what I carry with me. My mother wrote me a beautiful card that I’d thought I’d lost. In it she told me how truly happy she was that I was near her. Yet while she was still alive I saw her infrequently, despite the short distance. I know this was because of her addiction, but it was also because I had grown used to being alone. Now I am alone. When I found the card preserved perfectly in a notebook sleeve I broke down and cried from relief. However upon reading, the card did little more than riddle me with guilt.

Still, like her ashes I can’t ever imagine leaving it behind. For all the faults of my mother’s choices, and for all the luxury she discarded in her drug addiction, there’s still a hole where her presence filled in my heart. I carry with me the burden, the memory, and her ashes. I regret that she never separated herself from the things that tore her down. I am possessed by unseasonable rage that our family chose their own luxuries and turned blind eyes while she disintegrated, and I wish I had gotten my act together sooner joined the military and got her the hell out of there. I have so many regrets.

What I don’t regret is being there. Which when I’d first came back to that old town I thought I would. Life has a funny way of always making me eat my own words. I had quiet, I had fire flies to catch before they disappear, as did my daughter. I had my own home, I had holidays with my mother, I had a career that made me happy and the freedom to explore while my mother had time at home with her granddaughter. I’m sure if we could go back there would be things we’d both change, but there is no going back and I cherish the good parts that I did grab. I cherish even more the good parts that came upon me by way of fortune, like having the mother I had. So many people lose their warmth in the rapture of addiction and she never did. In a world where I had no one my mother was a beacon to call me home and hold me up. She prevented me from ever spiraling out of control and for that I am a better woman. She made me a better woman.

I don’t know what fate and circumstance will allow me to further embark upon down the road. I don’t know if I’ll live to see my daughter turn 30 as my mother did not. I do not know if I’ll ever be old. If I am given the gift of a comfortable life I am sure I’ll never forget what it was like to be a beggar. I’ll surely judge less harshly, I’ll attempt to tread more humbly. And of course I’ll attempt to become a better mother with every day, and hope my daughter can forgive me for my faults as I have learned to forgive my own mother for hers.

Paige Six | January 12, 2021

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