|I see the many colors of you|
Dancing on the mirror of my memory...
(a love letter to my mama)
Times have changed so much since I was a little girl and my mother was a young woman. As children, our parents are like God. They own the world we live in and rule with ultimate control, either wisely or foolishly. As time unfolds its secrets, like the sand washing back into the sea, we begin to see them with new eyes and realize we only see a fraction of who they were before they partnered with God to give us life. This is a short story about my mama, a woman who was complex and difficult to get to know, even for me. Today, I am looking into the kaleidoscope of yesterday, turning the lenses over and over, trying to bring into focus the woman I loved as my mother, but never really knew.
As a child, I remember my mother being very beautiful. She had creamy white skin, dotted all over in the summer with tiny, pretty freckles that covered every inch of her five foot, two inch frame. As children, we would sit on the porch in the summer trying to count her freckles. Impossible! Even as we counted, the sun coaxed more pretty dots to pop out on her skin. I always wished I had freckles like my mother. She, of course, wished she didn’t have them and washed them away with the magic of makeup every chance she got.
Her tiny frame was topped with a gorgeous head of thick black hair that she wore piled up on her head in the style that was popular in the war years. It was, by our standards today, a little prim, a little sexy and very, very feminine. She knew how to be a girl and watching her, I was happy God had made me one too. By contrast, the boys (I had four brothers) seemed to be boring, always dirty and too plain. No makeup, no pretty dresses, no jewelry! How they could stand not being a girl was beyond me!
The average woman in my mother’s day never spent money on “manis and pedis” – they had just come through the Great Depression and were grateful to have money to feed their children.
My mother didn’t work outside the home. Her time was consumed trying to raise the eight children she brought into the world.
I don’t ever remember seeing my mother in a pair of jeans. They were for the kids, not for grown women. She mostly donned little cotton dresses “house dresses” that were simple, cheap and functional. She was a house wife before the name became anathema to women…
Halloween was a very strange holiday back then! Adults made costumes for the kids! It was all about the kids, end of story! I never, ever saw my mother dress up in a Cat Woman costume or a sexy, French maid costume for the adult Halloween party she was attending.
When I was very young, I always walked home for lunch and sat in front of the TV watching “Uncle Jonny Coon” and eating a hot lunch my mother had prepared. Every day, rain or shine.
She didn’t have diamonds or rubies or, even pearls. Where would she get the money for that? A beautiful woman doesn’t really need those things. A woman without beauty doesn’t gain it no matter how many jewels she wears.
There were two objects of beauty that I remember my mother treasuring. One was a delicate blue bottle of French perfume (at least I thought it was French!) Labeled “Midnight in Paris” it captured my imagination and gave me a love for a faraway place, somewhere across the sea, known as “Paris”! Surely, there was simply no more romantic place anywhere on the planet! And, somehow, my mother had a bottle of their perfume! She must have had some secrets I didn’t know about as a little girl!
The other object of my admiration from among the things my mother owned was a winter coat, scarlet red and lined with beautiful auburn colored fur surrounding the neckline and cascading down the front. Wearing this coat, posing next to my father who was over six feet tall, she smiled a shy smile that lit up her face with love and vulnerability.
Vulnerability. As a child, I never saw her as vulnerable. Or in love. It has taken me many years to grow into an understanding that she was a little girl once too. That she had dreams of her own and struggles as a woman and a mother, just as I do. She was far from perfect. She needed to be forgiven a lot. She needed grace. As it turns out, she was just like me…
"Honor your father and your mother..."