Everything I needed to know about my mother was contained in a tiny rectangular box. The box was made of glass and stood roughly 1 1/2 inches high, half an inch wide. It was lined in gold trim and hung from her neck by a thin chain.
My mom and I had a special relationship. We were a team. We relied on each other. My brothers and sister came along when I was 12, 13 and 15, but until that point, it was just us. They will always be able to share the memories of youth together, but my childhood was me and Mom. Only she and I know what we went through — the good and bad. Although I will never forget the painful two months when my brothers and sister were together while she bravely fought terminal cancer, I'd like to forget it.
I want to forget the agony she endured and the fear she experienced. At least for one day.
I want to remember sitting on our apartment's balcony in East Brunswick, N.J., watching Star Wars — minus the sound — in the distance at the Drive Inn Theater.
I want to remember us goofing around with my plastic Fisher Price record player, listening and singing all the songs from The Muppet Movie, Grease and Saturday Night Fever. Little did she know sitting in front of that record player that someday I'd be a DJ.
I want to remember loading up her colorfully striped beach bag every summer and making the long trek to Sandy Hook. We would roll the windows down in her baby-blue Ford Pinto and sing the whole way there. Mom would pin a beach pass on my little Speedo and we would spend the rest of the day eating homemade ham-and-cheese sandwiches, listening to music and relaxing.
Sometimes we would talk endlessly. Other times she would read and we sat quietly. But no matter what, we were together.
I want to remember people constantly mispronouncing her name and the humor she found in that. Everything from WINAN to WIININ to WAYNE.
I want to remember how she was a teacher to the core — sometimes squeezing two lessons into one. I was about 9 or 10 and had just won an essay contest at school. Mom beamed with pride while reading my work. Knowing she was an English teacher, that gave me a boatload of confidence. I felt good about myself.
A few hours later, we were in the kitchen. She shook her head and told me I wrote better than most of the 11th-graders she was teaching. I chimed in, "Well, I can write something and you can show it to them and tell them your 9-year-old wrote it."
She snapped her head around and said to me "Why, do you want them to feel bad about themselves?" Right there I learned not one but two lessons — I could be proud and have confidence in my ability without rubbing someone's face in it.
I want to remember how beautiful she looked on my wedding day as we danced to our song: Helen Reddy's You and Me Against the World.
I want to remember the joy in Mom's voice when she heard me tell her my wife and I were adopting and she would finally be a grandma.
Wynanne Wright — beautiful inside and out — left this world far too early, but certainly left a legacy. She will be remembered as a friend, a colleague, a lover, a rock, a beacon, a confidant, a leader, a musician, an artist, a catalyst, a teacher and a student.
But among all these things, all I needed to know about my mother was contained inside a little glass box. It was spelled out in a few tiny diamond chips — simple, classy, elegant, timeless: # 1 MOM.
I love you, Mom.