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