My mom died on March 4th at home with her brothers. I was on a train to Manhattan to catch a plane out to California, my sister Barbie was driving at top speed from Oregon, my brother Blaise was on a plane from Milwaukee, and my brother Blake was minutes away from their home. None of us got there in time. Somehow I think that is how she wanted it: on our way to be together, but not there with her.
She was a complicated person and certainly one of the toughest I’ll ever know. I won’t write her remeemberance here. Instead I’ll share a memory of one of my best memories I have of her.
My mom was a rigger and stagehand for 30 plus years. The summer after I graduated high school she was touring with the Rolling Stones in Europe. I met up with her and the tour in Rome while on a backpacking trip. I got to hang out with the crew, see the show, and bask in the glory of a beautiful hotel room. Bill Wyman flirted with me in the hotel bar. I saw Ron Wood and his family at the pool. I never saw Keith Richards, but I did see Mick Jagger sweaty from the stage, his face rubbery and tired looking. It was fun being there, watching my mom build the huge sets and pull the rigs of giant inflatable women that danced above the stage during the song “Street Fighting Man.”
One night, after a show, my mom and I manned a makeshift bar that she had built for the crew under the stage. It was a wild night. There were people everywhere and the only drink we had the ingredients to make were screwdrivers. I was 18 and didn’t drink. I was also so not Rock n’ Roll, but I climbed into the wood booth with my mom and asked people how much vodka and how much orange juice. It was a warm night in July and we were beneath the unlit stage. The crowd got thicker and thicker. Soon we were handing the drinks out hand over fist and she and I were laughing hilariously because of my incompetence, because of the rush, because it was fun. She looked over at me and laughed and said, “Alright GIRL!”
She was proud of me in that moment. That was part of the kind of mom she was.
Seeing her on that tour was the happiest I can remember her. I asked her a couple of months ago if that was when she was happiest. “Yeah,” she said through tears. “That was probably it.”
She died on the only date that gives direction: march FORTH. She was never one to hang back so it seems appropriate.
They broke the mold when they made you, Mama.
Bee Oliver, June 19 1944-March 4 2013