I love you!
It’s been twenty years since you passed, but I have missed you every day that you have been gone! Though there are many times I feel you with me especially in song.
Every day I think of something I would like to ask you. And I think how you might approach an issue or a challenge. I think often of all the little and big events of our life together and how you took every opportunity to let me know how much you loved and adored me.
Lala just reminded me of how you used to take your napkin, dip it into your glass of water, and clean our faces after dinner in a restaurant. We fussed and turned, and you gently and firmly held our faces and made us presentable, often finishing the ritual with a quick hug.
I also remember the thrice annual visits to the clothing store. Once just at the beginning of school and thus the beginning of fall. Then again at Christmas time and once at Easter and the beginning of warm weather. The school trip was always the biggest as you would have us find six new dresses, one for each day of the week with an extra plus an eighth dress to wear to church on Sunday. Along with the dresses came the slips and petticoats and the little t-shirts plus tights and socks. And a nice winter coat. and a play coat. And a few pairs of pants or shorts. Then we’d go to the shoe store and get both dress shoes and school shoes in the proper color of the season, black after Labor Day and white for Easter and thereafter.
In the earliest years, all this shopping would just be for me and Lala but as she got older, Boppy was included and we would fill all the dressing rooms at the clothing store. A literal three-ring circus of girls and clothing and the beginnings of my desire to be feminine and girly and pretty.
I loved our Saturday night ritual when you wash our hair in the kitchen sink. One by one, we would lie on our backs on the kitchen counter and lay our heads in your hands. As we got older, you would cushion our necks with a folded towel. No matter how much we might twist and turn, you always took great care not to get soap in our eyes. Once all washed and towel wrapped on our heads turban-style we would proceed to into the family room for the next part.
Again, one by one, we would stand between your legs as you carefully combed our hair and then rolled it in pink sponge curlers. If you and Daddy were going out, you would get this done before you left. On the going-out nights the ritual concluded as we watched you doing your hair and make-up and perfume. So exotic and lovely you were! And once you finished, you’d get us set up on TV trays holding our TV dinners, so we could eat and watch TV. Our hair drying in the curlers so that we’d be ready the next morning for church.
Church for Easter involved hats, gloves and pocketbooks in addition to dresses and white shoes. Easter Sunday was always proceeded by Saturday egg dying. I remember the custard cups filled with color dye and the thin copper wire dipper which always seemed so precarious and from which eggs tumbled from time to time. Moma, you loved tradition and ritual and passed on to us so many fun events and ways for a family to experience and share love and connection.
At other times, I remember getting all dressed up and going just by myself with you to the tea room in the old-style department store downtown. Perched on the edge of a chair, we were served tea sandwiches and little cakes. I felt so grown-up and so excited to be with you just myself. I look back now and know that you were my heart and soul and that I had no doubt but that you would love me eternally. You were funny, and we laughed, and we were together.
Moma, you were beautiful always in my eyes. I wanted to grow up beautiful like you and use women’s hard curlers, and have falls to extend my hair, and a stool in the bathroom to fix my face, and my own sink, and matching silky slippers to go with robe and nightgown. You were so elegant and regal in my little girl eyes. You knew everything and tried always to be kind even when you were hopping mad when Lala and I fought and bickered and sassed you back.
And now with my more mature eyes and heart I see you differently, understanding much I couldn’t then. You were only 21 years old when I was born. I was your first and you were newly married to a young doctor who was just getting started with his practice and dream of being the best he could be. So much to figure out, so much to manage and handle, and into all that two baby daughters, thirteen months apart, then a third daughter six years later.
It was a time of white gloves and party manners. Women wore dresses and hats and gloves. You’d go to the beauty shop for a weekly cut and curl. In the 1970s that would mean the addition of a fall, a hair piece, set on top to give the typical look of the times. Though as I grew older, your hairstyles became more natural and less arranged. Though it never failed. Looking in the mirror as you got ready to go out, curling a finger around a lock of hair you would say, “Maybe next week I’ll get him to cut more here on this side.”
In my twenties and thirties, I had the chance to ask you so many questions that I have now. But now that you are gone, I can’t ask. I can just wonder, just contemplate what you thought of your life and your husband and your daughters? Were you scared? Or was everything going so fast there was no time for thought much less feeling? And where did that anger come from and how much did I cause?
I remember one day, you got so upset with Lala, Boppy and me that saliva dripped from your mouth and you furiously wiped it away with your palm in a very uncharacteristic, unladylike way. You threw down something, a towel I think, and walked out the front door leaving us to gape at you through the front window. You couldn’t hear at that point, but we went silent, finally, and held each other’s hands, surprised and chastened. Whatever the dispute, forgotten, tossed aside as the unspoken fear crept in: Is Moma coming back?
Of course, you did! And it was a lesson I would learn again and again. Sometimes you just need to step away and give yourself some breathing room. Later I did ask you about the moment. You told me you walked around the block, feeling a bit silly but knowing you had to have a break, time for yourself, for just a moment.
Here on Mother’s Day, in the 58th year of the gifts of your motherhood, I think of you. I know I could never quantify all that you gave me and continue to offer.
If I could just hold your hand in mine, I would say Thank you!
And I would offer you a Margarita because I’m more grown up now and I just found this really awesome organic tequila I think you’d laugh with me about using. And we’d talk about life and love and tell goofy jokes because I’m your daughter and you’re my mother.
And no matter what transpires for me in my life to come, I know I’m a better person because of your love and the big and little you added to my life.
Dear Moma! I love you! I always will!
To find more writing I have posted about my life experience, begin here: About Cheryl Marlene.