I had a visitation this morning before waking. I was dreaming in the light sleep of early morning and I was walking through an indoor flea market. My crazy sister was there and she wanted me to give her my Mom’s old tea silver teapot. It is a small teapot, tarnished and I know it leaks.
I remember the thick knitted tea cozy in garish colours that ’just fit it perfectly’, and how pleased Mom was with that happenstance. She would make her tea and then go back to bed to read and write with her tea for company. Her deepest of pleasures was going back to bed with a tea and her beloved cat.
I thought I could give the teapot to my sister but I said, “But you know you will just sell it for crack’ and my sister agreed that she would do that, and that seemed a bad end for the teapot. So we decided that I should keep it.
Then I came up to a small stall of my Mom’s stuff, and my Mom was there selling it. I sat down beside her and she showed me neatly folded shirts; soft cotton, worn, but clean. Light summery colours, faded pink, green and yellow.
I held one up and saw my Mom in it, bustling about at the cottage, standing at the gas stove with a battered pot, preparing to boil water. I held the next one up to my nose, closed my eyes and breathed in. My body filled with the spirit of my Mom, not her perfume but the essence of whom she was; clean, folded light cotton shirts washed thin, smelling fresh, the shirt symbolized my Mom as a sensualist who believed beauty was found in industry and efficiency.
Mom recycled long before it became the thing to do, she believed in getting the most out of every object. But it was more than a desire to be efficient, it was more like being economical was seen as the higher moral ground. One should not be wasteful of food or life. Chicken stock should be made from bones, pets should be loved’ til their dying breath, and an old shirt that can no longer be worn makes a very good cloth for cleaning.
The shirts were my Mom’s cottage clothes: I could see the back of her head as she threw out the dish water at the back of her cottage door. We are in the main cottage and she is in her next door cabin. I can hear the slap of her screen door, her voice talking to her cat. If I am old enough to have a child, the child is running over to see her. Usually fearful of large or unknown spaces this child will dash through the forest knowing that Grandma is close. “Hi Darling”, I hear my Mom’s voice; ‘darling’ in some form, some variation of ‘darling’.
This was my best Mom; she was happiest with little children. She often told me that she found herself singing when she was with little children. She wanted everything in its place and all her attention was on us. Lots of time to play, shared chores and good meals. Stories; read aloud, told from memory, painted, written down in journals or sung to us at night. “There was an old woman who swallowed a fly”…
On rainy days we were allowed to water paint the illustrations in our favorite books. This was a big treat because normally we were taught to never deface a book.
I held up a soft cotton shirt, light emerald green, to my nose and I smelled her perfume and her body odor and I missed her and started to cry. It was dream crying, an inside quiet sobbing. And she, my Mom in the dream, said, ‘Oh, here come the tears, that’s OK, it is good to cry”. Funny Mom, making me cry.
My Mom had a much told anecdote about visiting her father’s house after he died and her step mother arranging her father’s night gown on her shoulders. Mom was enveloped in her father’s body odour and burst into tears. Mom thought that action was insensitive of her step mother but that anecdote altered later in life to include the possibility that maybe the woman had not meant to be cruel. I never knew if this particular woman was as mean to Mom as Mom seemed to think she was. Mom may have created her as an enemy that replaced her real mother. She was childish that way.
And here was my mom pushing soft clothing under my nose, knowing that the cloth held not just her smell and essence, but her whole body and soul. She was making me cry on purpose but I did not mind.
I loved her soft clean neatly folded clothes. It said everything about her. She kept her things forever, mending and patching. She was thrifty and good with her hands. She picked out pretty colors and enjoyed the feel of soft materials. She was a sensualist and a bit vain, proud of looking good. She kept things very neatly, everything folded in her drawers, even her socks, her silky undies. Everything in its place and all sorted.
I don’t know why I can never do that. I have never been able to be neat. She never criticized me about that. She accepted all my eccentricities. All she wanted was to be loved. And I did love her, and stuck by her to the end. But because she was so powerful and manipulative when she was younger, I did hold myself away, in order not to be hurt. And that hurt her more than anything else I could have done.
I stuck by her though, accepting the dissolution of our family, the new boyfriends, the determined but terribly ineffective parenting of her ‘sick’ daughter, and her slew of new friends who had to be my friends too. Her mood swings, her insecurities, her mean fighting words and her desire to win rather than admit weakness.
But it was all immaterial in the face of death. When we looked at each other we had no secrets and no regrets; we hardly needed to speak. She knew I was going to live on for her, and that I could do things that she always wanted to do. But I did not have to do it under her charge. I no longer had to do her bidding. I did not have to be friends with people that were important to her but not me. I could just continue to be me and know I had her blessing.