Rest Well, Virginia Rose


17 years ago today, you left this plane, and 16 years ago on this date, your ashes found a final resting place at Lago de Zirahuén. Well, half of them did.

Remember that silver cigarette box you’d swiped from me the fall before you died? We filled it with your ashes, and what that wouldn’t hold went into a satin pouch. I took the cigarette box down to the lake. As I was negotiating the price of a launch, I broke down in tears, two bystanders immediately caught on to my plans, intervened with the boatman, and they ended up joining me as we headed toward Agua Verde. Damned if we couldn’t open up that box, which the heat of your ashes and scotch tape had hermetically sealed, and even though the thought did enter my mind to toss the entire box into the lake, I just couldn’t do that. The boatman offered up a knife, and we freed your ashes to the water. The male half of the couple, who turned out to be a photography professor in the D.F., captured it all on film, and his female companion said some prayers. Ashes blew in our faces.

GraceSlick would go on to remind me that you might’ve liked spending the rest of eternity in the Hill Country, but I kept on dodging the bullet. Finally, a year or so later, I confessed to her what I’d done, bracing myself for reprisals. She responded like you would’ve, saying “That’s a relief, one more thing I don’t have to deal with.” I told her that there were still ashes left in the satin pouch. A year or so after that, she joined me in scattering the rest of you at the lake.

During the summer before you died, you’d bought a tract of land in Zirahuén, planning to build yourself a house there. It seemed only natural that you would end up there.

You were always a prom queen, a professional dancer, artist, gypsy and free spirit. Only the latter two qualities did you pass on to me.

You insisted that I finish law school. And when I did, you told me that I owed you two years in private practice.

I can still hear your voice saying “You’re wearing that?” and “Why don’t you do something with your hair?”

And I also hear your voice of encouragement, giving me permission to do wild and crazy things, not caring a whit about what others may think.

I remember how you stood up for me in school in my never-ending battles with the dress code.

I was the first in the family to light up a joint in front of you, right in the downstairs family room in 1972. The next morning you asked “Was that really marijuana you were smoking?” I told you it sure was. You didn’t blink.

GraceSlick and I thought you were a little crazy about that vegetable gardening thing. We’ve since learned why, and now we both grow our own vegetables. More than a few times, I’ve considered getting some chickens, but I’ve wisely elected not to follow your example.

The horseradish that Rocky Stoneburner gave you still persists, planted under the magnolia tree. I’ve given it away to everyone I could, but frankly, that stuff is a plague.

The blackberries are flourishing.

We tried to make marmalade out of the Seville oranges that you planted, but the project was just too much, so we cast that aside. We never liked marmalade anyway. But you’ll be happy to know that I’ve put sour orange juice to good use in making cochinita pibil and aguas frescas.

The pomegranates are absolutely incredible. The two old trees have propagated three more, and all are in production.

You were as old as I am now when you learned how to fly a plane. You were even older when you decided to pack up and move to Mexico.

Even though moving abroad was always my plan, you made it materialize. You made me pick up the phone book and cold-call an English-speaking lawyer in Morelia one Christmas holiday, and before the season was finished, you’d bought a run-down lot, saying it had potential. It turned out to be a good decision.

You said that the area between Santa Maria de Guido and Jesus del Monte had real potential, and that was before the road linking the two was even paved. You’d be patting yourself on the back for that foresight if you could see where the Nueva Morelia in Altozano has situated itself.

I’m only halfway through cleaning out your closets. I expect to finish that task by 2020. No one can wear your 8 AAAA Ferragamos, so they remain until I can figure out a use for them. Only last year did I notice that you’d worn my pair of The Most Beautiful Shoes in the World instead of your own, which naturally were too small for you. That’s okay, because I really never had the opportunity to wear those shoes anyway.

What do you want me to do with your mink hat? No one seems to want it. Your fur coats are still in the closet waiting for a good use.

Candles and incense glow for you today.

Thank you, Mother. (See, I remembered that you preferred to be called “Mother” instead of what others called theirs.)

This entry was posted in Mexico.

25 comments on “Rest Well, Virginia Rose

  1. Carole Kocian says:

    I had a faint recollection that this date was high in your mind because, coincidentally, today would have been my dad’s 94th birthday.

    What a lovely mama you had! I have my mother’s furs, too. I’ve had an occasion to wear one of them in an appropriate climate, a December in Boston.


  2. Mary Villalba says:

    On the furs….I read a suggestion recently that they make lovely throws for cold winter nights. I pulled my mother’s beaver coat out, fully intending to convert it, but just could not do it. I may pull it out and just lay it on the sofa, though. As for the hat….send it north to a deserving friend! We are having a cold winter and someone will love and cherish it!
    Say “hi” to Maureen if you see her!


  3. My mother will be 94 in May. Each year on her birthday, I put on some of her jewelry, make it a point to get dressed up in better-than-usual clothes, and go out to lunch for her. It just seems like something she would’ve done.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. John Calypso says:

    Very cool photo – your mother played the vibes? How cool! Obviously a lady that walked on the wild side and spun one off in you ;-)


  5. Tancho says:

    Beautiful Lady with the mallets! Great story.


  6. Barbara says:

    What a smashing tribute! You COULD have those furs made into pillows so you could loll on a chaise or on your bed with your head on them and great dreams of future adventures!
    GREAT post, as always.
    Today is Matilda Isabela’s 6th Birthday…..Now I’ll always think of your MOTHER as well!


  7. Peter says:

    I realized a while ago that I can no longer hear my mother’s voice…
    She died so long ago at age 47.


    • Mary Villalba says:

      Peter….I was thinking the other day that I cannot remember my mother’s voice and she’s only been gone for 17 years. Almost instantly after she died I forgot her voice.l On the other hand, I clearly remember my father’s voice…so all is not lost!


  8. Patzman says:

    I Spent part of the day with my 87 yr young mother today. I appreciate this day more after reading your prose. Thank you.


  9. Jodi says:

    Thanks for these thoughts. Sending hugs your way.


  10. SMA says:

    Jennifer, this was a lovely tribute to your mother and I think she would have enjoyed reading it!


  11. Kim G says:

    What a beautiful remembrance. Your mother sounds like quite the character. I’m sure she was very proud of your achievements.

    May she rest in peace.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA


  12. Phil says:

    Really touching and engrossing and I still recall the tastes, smells and laughter she engineered so gracefully and tactfully when we were leaving town.A ‘class’ act and an original one in a million!


  13. Don Cuevas says:

    I was very moved by your essay. Tears welled up. We were privileged to be with you on this date, yesterday and to hear more from you of your mother’s story.

    Don Cuevas y Doña Cuevas


  14. Steve Cotton says:

    You are always a good writer, but this is outstanding. Thanks for letting us into the little corner of your life.


  15. Tony says:

    Jennifer, you are fabulous!


  16. laurie says:

    This tribute is amazing. I loved it. My mom is nearly 81. I need to treasure her more. Your words gave me a motivation to do that. Thanks.


  17. Reblogged this on Red Shoes are Better than Bacon and commented:

    And today marks the vigintennial of your demise, Dear Mother.


  18. rickhallmexico says:

    Jennifer, you are your mother’s daughter and thanks to her you have an elevator, among other things! Abrazos, Rick
    P.S. We still have my father’s ashes.
    Why is this post showing up again, now?
    Perdón, I read the previos comment from you.
    Que desnasa en paz!


  19. Carole Kocian says:

    I just read a helpful (or unhelpful, depending on perspective) from a blog called Next Avenue. It mostly addresses issues of the superannuated, from finances to health care to what to do with all that stuff. The article title was something like “Your kids don’t want your stuff.” I’m trying to rid myself of some of that stuff and am getting that same response. Currently custodian of three legacy sets of china, some 1930s walnut furniture, pictures and rugs from dearly departed. Then there is my own stuff that I don’t want to leave for them to drag around with them out of guilt because that’s where I am. They prefer IKEA groan.


  20. Sure, that made for an interesting article, and it’s a theme I’ve seen repeated before. But that’s no reason for you to fret about getting rid of your stuff. You don’t have one foot in the grave, and your kids may come to their senses and change their minds, their IKEA disintegrating by the time you’re in rigor mortis. In due time, the china and 1930s walnut will regain their appeal, and so will your stuff, particularly when the next generation realizes that it can’t afford anything as nice. And what’s so wrong with inflicting guilt?

    As for my mother’s mink hat, it doesn’t take up that much room in the closet. And someday I may be damn glad to have it.

    And then there’s the 3-tiered cake or bon bon plate I used to think was hideous. Last winter, I got it out of the bodega to put some cookies on, and it suddenly looked just right. And now the same style is for sale at Sanborns for over $100 USD. I’m glad I didn’t throw it away.


  21. […] 25 years ago, Virginia Rose left this plane, her ashes finding their final resting place at Lago de Zirahuén. Read on at here and here. […]


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