For mom's birthday you went to Echo Park and brought along one of her favorite snacks (Snyder's Honey Mustard Pretzel Pieces) and Hope Edelman's MOTHERLESS DAUGHTERS; the latter had been sitting on your shelf, barely touched, for about 10 years. When you got there, you decided to follow a whim and pay the $10 to take the paddleboat onto Echo Park Lake. You weren't even sure that was allowed -- solo boat paddling -- but it was, and out you went to read and eat pretzel pieces.
Mom probably wouldn't have done this. She would have voiced awkward worries about the boat accommodating her or tipping over. She would have been wearing the wrong outfit for this kind of exercise. But if she'd put those things aside and gone out onto the water, boy would she have loved it. Especially the birds, which are bountiful and varied and splendid here.
You took the book onto the lake because it seemed like a festive birthday thing to do, but also because if you were on the lake, fewer people would see you cry. And every time you'd tried to read the book before, by Hope Edelman, her personal account of being knocked over again and again by her mother's death (of cancer, after a short illness, when Hope was 17).
But this time you didn't cry. You read the whole first chapter, 28 pages, and then floated about for the rest of the hour, watching a crane alight near the lotus blossoms. You thought how much she'd love this part, and how thrilled she'd be that this place is your home, and you had the biggest smile on your face.
It hurts a little, an aching in the back of your throat, to recollect the hour just past, to write it out, to commit it to language. It will probably hurt the same way to read it later. But it's a different kind of pain than raw grief, sweeter than dismal mourning. It's the pain of being left to do the experiencing of a beautiful afternoon, in a beautiful place, in her stead. Which, in a way, means you have to -- and get to -- experience it twice, through two sets of eyes. It's a pain that's a part of being alive.