I have seen her twice in the past week. Once in the car on the way home from Chattanooga and once while walking down the street, passing windows, with two friends.
People say I most resemble my aunt and sometimes I see it, in my very blue eyes, in my five foot glory, or the dimple in my chin. But in all the recent sightings, peek-shows in mirrors and reflections, I see my mother in me. Perhaps it's the loose ringlets, encouraged by southern humidity, or the way I walk when I am unconscious of walking at all. I don't know. But I see her often.
I see her in the sewing project that has been spread across our dining room table for a few weeks, slowly filling a large cardboard box set to be mailed to California soon. She sewed baby quilts for all of us; I think mine was dark green, mauve, and grey with a rocking horse on it. The last time I saw it it was hanging on the wall of a nursery belonging to some other person's baby, but there was always the promise of another quilt of my own someday. I've forgotten about it. Now I am sewing baby quilts for someone else.
I see her in my love for colors. My bedroom pieced together in burnt orange, apple green and sky blue, and a plethora of found objects building my eclectic kingdom. People say my room is peaceful. I remember the houses in which I grew up—and it is peace that I remember the most until my teens brought out the monster in me and the angst ridden marriage brought out the fear in the rest of us.
I recently called her to let her know that the one thing she always did that bothered me most was the one thing I found myself doing. But if you knew that two perfectly good, beautiful pieces of furniture were about to be thrown in a dumpster by unsuspecting renovators, you would rescue them too. A deep blue dry sink and a lovely dijon colored cupboard are residents in our home now. I knocked on a door and asked to adopt them, just like she always did. I refinished one and left the other with all its scratches and coats of paint, because it adds character. Just like she always said.
I see her in the way I apply mascara, lightly and rarely. I see her in my love for folk art and jazz. I see her in the way I am with words, keenly aware of my power to communicate whatever I feel, sometimes unaware that death and life are in the tongue. I see her in my passion for homemaking—for making a home wherever I am with whatever I find. I see her in my green thumb. At last count there are twenty-two plants in residence on our front porch; she and I spent a half an hour text-messaging herb care pointers the other day.
She has short, straight hair now, not the long ripples of black with which I grew up. She drives a black four-door Malibu, trading in the vans and station wagons of my youth. She listens to bands I've never heard of and is up on all the latest BMXing news, compliments of my 18 year old brother who breathes bikes and boards. She calls Florida home now, oddly for me, proudly labeled a northeasterner even if I live in the south. Her new house is filled with black leather couches, pink dining room furniture, and flamingos of every sort—I think they started out as a joke and turned into a hobby.
But some things always stay the same because they are the things she passed on to me, her tangible Bucks County accent, her mannerisms, the tulip I painted on the cupboard, replicated from the fraktur folk art of my youth. We joke about the Brady thighs we both have, and she always tells me I have lips like her mother, round and pouty. We'll never
We don't see each other often, and it is usually when she passes through Tennessee on her way to New York, and I can't promise that we'll live near one another when she, or I, are old and grey. But there are some things that time and money and location and divorce, and even change can't change.
Like my love of color and my green thumb, my frugality and my creativity. These are things my mother gave me for keeps. These are the ways I see my mother every day.
Reposted from June 2007.