My lullaby

3 Sep

My mother was dying the Christmas of 1988, I just didn’t know it then.

Just like I’d never gone, I knew the song
A young girl with eyes like the desert

That Christmas I remember for 3 things.

  • The softness of the clothing. My father went out of his way to find soft accessible clothing for my swollen, sore mother. It was all some version of pastel in my mind.
  • My grandparents and Aunt were there. We never had company for Christmas. Ever. We never went anywhere for Christmas. Ever.
  • Feeling oh so grown up from the camisoles my mother bought me.

My mother had decided that it was time to show me how to be a woman. We had previously gone to the snooty ladies dress shop to look for underthings for me. I was growing up. Things were sprouting.

I was excited. My mother was finally looking at me as a person. I was slightly unnerved by the look in her eye at times, the look of sadness, watching her ponder me. But I chose to ignore it as I fingered the expensive dresses, linen, lace, the tender tootsie shoes in rainbow colors. All the pieces of woman my mother stood like. Her staunch, classic face, which grew more and more pained and morose as time wore on.

My memories of my mother do not include smiles. Not near the end.

I prayed that the days would last
They went so fast

Christmas morning was a mess of presents, but only after church. The adults had gone to midnight mass, as was the tradition in our house, that beautiful service of dark skies and stars, the cold snap of air as the bells rang through the night. My mother however, had no energy for that, so we instead went to the morning mass, the restrained impatient one. I had no desire to go. I wanted to stay and open the massive haul of presents under the tree, the one that comes from having extra relatives in the house.

I don’t remember the service, but I imagine it was like every other one in that massive, lovely church I grew up in. The choir singing to burst their hearts, the light lilt of peace and faith hovering over heads. My mother’s face, seemingly pain free as she reveled in the glory and wonder of her own personal god. My mother believed. She really did. No matter how sick, how tired she was, she dragged her bones to church, with me in tow generally. Her eyes would be transfixed on the altar, and many times, they would bring the host to her. She wanted so badly to be healed.

When we returned home, we opened everything. There was a small look of sadness on my mother’s face, seeing that nothing my father had purchased would fit. The look of pleasure and pain, all at once. Pleased that he had thought of her. Upset that he would be sad that he didn’t get it right. Looking back, I know they knew then what they pretended wasn’t going to happen. There was no remission. There was only waiting.

I want to be where the sun warms the sky
When it’s time for siesta you can watch them go by


My mother never wavered. She never showed pain, not to me. Discomfort, frustration, the obvious irritation and sadness at making her daughter, her young daughter help her get her boots on and off and carry her bowls of vomit. But she never really let me see what was happening.

Christmas morning, I received 2 camisoles that signalled my entrance into womanhood, my baby steps there. I pranced around my room, listening to the radio on my new tiny boom box, singing, taping things just because I could, back when you had to tape songs off the radio. A song came on that I would carry in my heart the rest of my life, because my mother stood watching me as I sang it.

Tropical the island breeze
All of nature wild and free
This is where I long to be

5 Responses to “My lullaby”

  1. marcelarhodus September 3, 2007 at 8:41 pm #

    you just brought tears to my eyes.

    even though, my mom passed away at a very different time in my life and in hers, and in a different way, each of your words made me think of her and I cried almost through your whole post.

  2. sweetsalty kate September 3, 2007 at 8:51 pm #

    this is so beautiful, thor… I’ve read it three times so far.

  3. sweetsalty kate September 3, 2007 at 8:52 pm #

    geez, to add: I’m sorry I’ve got nothing of substance to say (a couple of long nursing nights), except that I’m here and this was lovely.

  4. thordora September 4, 2007 at 1:43 pm #

    Thank you ladies. Everyone seems to be actually working or outside the last few days. 🙂

  5. bine September 4, 2007 at 3:05 pm #

    i’m working, but i do read your posts. i just don’t know what to say. it’s beautiful, and sad. so sad i’m afraid to think about it too much.

    your mother must have thought about that she wouldn’t see you grow up. i think that must have been almost as painful as losing your mother before you grow up.

    see, now i’m crying. but i’m glad i read this again.

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