The Clasp

I never had the money my sisters had. I never chose a sensible career path or sheltered in the safety of a solid relationship. I rode the crest of a wave ~ crashing, picking myself up and getting on again. My path has been bruised and alert, never fitting the mold. The Goodwill was my Neiman Marcus, junkers my transport.

I am not a gift giver or anyone who appreciates material things. They get in my way, need tending, replacing and are cumbersome to manage from the crest of a wave. But my mother loves things that sparkle, and grace her neck and ears with beauty. She belongs in the scene of a British movie, where the husband tiptoes behind her, gently kissing her cheek as she sits at her vanity. His starched white cuff is all that shows on screen, as he flips open a velvet hinged case to release diamonds which drip from her neck and cascade from each ear. That is my mothers role. She is the feminine bird fixing her hair and fluffing her ruffles for an evening of elegance and polish.

I know this about her. I want to please, to care for her, to fill in her empty places and so I shop. I shop without knowledge, money or experience. I shop for the child in her who delights at surprise.

I always buy jewelry because she can’t have enough. I imagine she will wear my gifts for a few years, feeling my love as she fastens the clasp across her wrist, around her neck or over each lobe. What I did not account for, is that she would keep my gifts year after year, attached to each one more completely than we bonded as mother and daughter.

How shocked I was to see the gifts from my days in poverty still owned and worn, the price I paid betraying itself in the green tinge on her finger or the dull marks on her neck.

Oh mother dear, forgive me. That was the best I could do, when you deserved so much more.

written 10-16-08

The Purse

My mother is a tiny woman, fragile and small. She loves fashion and style. She loves fishing but never without lipstick, jewelry and attractive attire. My mother is an expression of opposites.

This small woman who weighs less than 100 pounds, still carries a purse that weighs 62. She has always carried this albatross like an anchor, holding her little body firmly fixed in time.

Grown men, large strong men, longshoremen-kind of men have complained about the weight of her purse, but she will not be without it; she won’t trim it down.

Her purses are custom made of imported leathers and have several zipper compartments in which you might find nail clippers, a screw driver, address book, make-up, wallet, checkbooks, hair combs, hand lotion, dental floss, car keys, extra car keys, silver hair clips, fishing line, department store receipts, pens, pencils, cell phone, stamps, calculator, paperclips, needles with thread, toothbrush and perfumes. If she is headed out for the evening, you can add white gloves and jewelry. This is only the surface, the part I might recognize from a glance.

I have offered to carry her albatross over the years, especially during periods of frail health, but tire after a few short blocks.

Mom, you can’t continue doing this. You have to carry less. Surely, you don’t need all this stuff!

She smiles and takes the bag from my arms. It’s okay honey, I’ll carry it now, I’m used to it.  She shoulders her leather anchor, moving forward with ease.

At the end of her medical appointment, the doctor picks up her purse, loses his balance and stumbles from the weight. Verse, what have you got in this thing? For heaven sake!  She pays him no mind, slips it over her shoulder and walks out.

I suppose we will bury her with that purse. I can’t imagine her doing without it.

 written 10-16-08

The Hospital Room

White coats and surgical coverings, sharp shining silver tools designed to invade, ether masks filled with gagging head splitting recovery. Alone, alone, alone, in dimly lit rooms where I wake full of pain, and half conscious awareness. Wheeled to other sterile rooms with metal beds lined up in rows. Jokes from a waitress who visits to explain that my mother is too busy to come. Are those pork chops you’re having for dinner, she asks, looking at the tube of liquid dripping into my arm. I smile feeling some responsibility to both appreciate and amuse her.

Later my mother comes with new pajamas, little rose buds living in creamy soft flannel. She smells like fresh air. The outside world clings to her clothes, the scent of the day lingers in her midnight hair. I want to eat her up, whole. I want to take her inside me to satisfy an unspeakable appetite. She tells me about the restaurant while painting her lips in fire engine red. I want to grab those lips, ask her to swallow me. I want to live within her body. Take me home, I want to scream. Take me to another place, eat me alive, but don’t leave me here.

Visiting hours are short, her schedule is full. I am one of the lucky 5. I am sick, so I get to see her. I have her undivided attention for about half an hour. New pajamas and the memory of sunlight playing on her ear-rings stay with me long after she closes the door. Now it’s me and nothingness. Tomorrow the janitor will mop my room. I like him. He comes everyday. The floors are not dirty. I don’t know why he comes. He has bags tied balloon-like over his shoes, as he mops clean over clean.

written 3-11-08