When I was growing up, I believed my mother was the driving force of our family. The home was her domain. She washed and cooked and ironed and made beds, and mopped floors. She got kids up for school and drove them to doctor appointments. She pincurled her hair, changed her clothes and put on lipstick before my Dad got home from work. She disciplined with a rubber flip flop, nursed us when were sick and made sure we got to church on time. My mom knitted sweaters, crocheted afghans, and taught me how to sew. When storms blew twigs and branches across the yard, mom was the first one out there to pick them up. When we were little girls and needed naps, we lay on mom's bed with her while she read stories. Mom liked to watch golf and tennis on TV. She cheered for her favorite football team, win or lose. She was watching (maybe listening) a boxing match when she went into labor with me.
There were two things I wanted to be when I grew up. Just like my mom. And nothing like my mom. I'm glad I walked in her footsteps. I learned, by my own mistakes, that most moms do the best they can.
I learned a lot about my mother's character after she died and I lived with my father. I learned he was the driving force behind the driving force in a patriarchal way. Dad could be harsh, argued unfairly, always had the last word. He expected certain things of his wife and I think he got them. After my mother's illness, Dad became a kinder and gentler husband. I am glad I got to witness that.
Now that both my parents are gone, it's my dad who visits my dreams. It's my dad I argue with. It's my Dad I still try to please. I don't miss my mom with the same kind of broken spirit. But every now and then I feel her presence. When I come across something that reminds me of her - a picture, an afghan, the black-handled spatula with the burned place on the handle that has worn smooth from use, the small green vase that she used for pansies or gardenias - I feel a deep longing as if we are still connected by an umbilical cord that death could not sever.
I noticed that feeling tonight when I saw this picture on FB. As she has aged, my Aunt Letty, looks more like my mom than when they were younger. They share features of their mother. Characteristics I may share too, tho I tend to resemble my dad's family more than my mom's. I've never lived in close proximity with my aunt. She was a city girl who lived in New York, then Washington DC. She wore high heels, drank martinis, went to plays, and held her own in an argument when my dad and her dad doubled up on her. She talked of skinny dipping in Lake Carmi and showed me how Ivory soap floats. All of which, to my young way of thinking, made her exotic. Products of the same parents but different eras I believe Lett had the free spirit my mom put in a cage on her wedding day.
I get sad when I think of how spread out my family is. We talk of getting together for big family reunions where cousins meet cousins they didn't know they had. I look at my Aunt and long for one of those nights when the adults would sit around the dining room table after the kids were excused. When the coffee cups were empty, dad would uncork the dusty bottle of brandy and serve it in small Japanese glasses used only on occasions. Now that I'm an adult, I'd like to sit at the table with the others and listen to the stories of good times past, friends long gone, and family connections that transcend time and space.
Happy belated Birthday Aunt Lett. I wish I'd been there to raise a glass in your honor. In my book you'll always be exotic. Much love and many blessings to you and yours,