Sunday, May 11, 2008

The scent of a mother~

I woke up early this Mother's Day filled with snips of memories involving my mother. She'd filled my last sleeping moments like a fragrance . . . Emeraude was hers.

She lives some distance away in an assisted living home. Her memory is slippery, but her essential essence remains.

Memories are elusive, I've discovered, even when not subject to the ravages of time. Mine, it seems, remembers fragments, and delivers only snapshots for my scrapbook of the past.

My mother is lying on the couch when I arrive home from school. The boxy black and white television set is on, "rabbit ears" spread eagled on top. She's watching "Afternoon Playhouse."

"Change out of your school clothes," she tells me after I lean down and she's kissed me.

My mother pinions me on my back. She rests a knee on the couch and leans closer. I see a lace-edged hankie in her hand and she tells me to open wider.

"I just want to see how loose it is," she says.

But I know she'll pinch my tooth between hankie-protected thumb and forefinger and try to twist it out. I squeeze my mouth shut.

My mother plops dollops of mayonnaise on canned pear halves that rest on iceberg lettuce leaves. The pears are on the salad plates, not the plates where our hamburg patties, peas and boiled potatoes wait on the table my father made.

"Wash your hands. Supper's ready," she says.

My mother sits with the cat on her lap and folds his ears inside out so that they look like tiny pup-tents, and the resigned cat looks faintly embarrassed.

"Mom!" I protest. My father grumbles, "Virginia, leave the cat alone." She laughs, shoulders shaking.

My mother peers out the living room window into the darkened street, then goes back to the kitchen. We're having spaghetti for supper. She's mixing Spatini sauce mix with tomato paste from a tiny can. She stirs in water, then puts down the wooden spoon and looks out the living room window again.

"You father's late," she says. Then sighs with relief. "Oh, I see his headlights."

My mother stands in front of her mirror in a long dress, one she made on her Singer sewing machine. She opens her mouth slightly and applies lipstick, then folds a Kleenex and puts it between her lips and pinches them together.

"Let me see," I say. She unfolds the tissue and shows me the red "O" of her mouth on the thin paper. Then she dabs Emeraude behind her ears . . . and mine.

I love that scent. . . and my mother.
Mother's love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved. ~Erich Fromm


Tere said...

It is so random what we remember but so touching and important. I love this. My mom's scent was Shalimar and to smell it now brings back so many memories.

Barbara said...

You reminded me of those canned pears on iceberg lettuce with the dollop of mayo on top. My mother took a meat and potatoes approach to cooking. And there was bread with every meal, always dotted with pats of real butter.

My mother saw her role in life much differently than I do. Her whole world revolved around cooking and taking care of her family

She was a Channel No. 5 woman.

Jen said...

Beautiful post, Ruth.

My mom's? Cristalle by Chanel.


david mcmahon said...

Thank you for the very generous comment on my Odd Shots post. And this is such a great tribute to your mother.

Ruth D~ said...

Interesting how each of you, Tere, Jen,and Barbara, remembers the scent your mother wore. I wonder if men remember that? Dave? :>)

leslie said...

I can hardly believe it, but my mother wore Emeraude as well. Lovely tribute to your Mom today,Ruth! :D

Janice Thomson said...

Your poignant post is one reason I liked the show "Scent of a Woman" so much - I guess men feel the same way though for slightly different reasons. A superb and heartwarming tribute to your Mother.
You have a way of wording that would bring a tear to even the most callous among us.

Ross Eldridge said...

Hi Ruth:

A very nice piece! We celebrate Mother's Day earlier in the year here ... it was, long ago, Mothering Sunday, a Church of England celebration.

Trying to recall if my mother EVER wore a fragrance. I think not. There were no bottles when I cleared out the house when she died. My grandmother (like many members of my family) had no sense of smell and wore no perfume either.

So, I don't associate a particular smell with my mother. It is the touch of her hands on my forehead when she thought I might be feverish ... dry, cracked and gnarled hands. That's the most memorable physical memory.

But, Ruth, she did the lipstick "O" on the Kleenex!

I think we grew up on much the same diet!

Cailean and I do ... better?


Pauline said...

and I love this post -

I remember pear halves and mayonnaise! You've put me in mind of my own mother so now I'll have to go post about her...

Wanda said...

Yes, you've reminded us all of that scent of mother ~~ mine was a necklace she wore around her neck, and when opened had a paste style perfume that smelled wonderful to me.
Thanks, I loved this post and your wonderful gift of words once again.

Lisa said...

What a lovely post, and a wonderful memory. Thanks for sharing this, Ruth. It really tugged at my heart-strings. A really sweet portrait of your mother, too!
I hope you had a nice Mothers Day, Ruth. I've been thinking of you a lot, and will miss having you as a neighbor. We'll have to get together ASAP!

Ruth D~ said...

All~ It's nice to get a glimpse of your mothers as well, the scents you remember in particular. The paste perfume necklace, Wanda, interesting.
And the pears and mayo must have been in a national magazine somewhere for it to be so well known.

Ross~ I remember the hands on my forehead well. Better than any thermometer.

Rozel said...

My mom smells like Avon lotion, my grandma smells like suave hair spray, my dad smells like motor oil, and my grandpa smelled like coffee ("real men drink it black"). I wander what I smell like? :)

You are such a eloquent writer

sh said...

My mother smells like Jergens. I enjoy your blog, and these fragments. Your flashquake featured artist link doesn't work. :-(