“Life began with waking up and loving my mother’s face.”

1 Nov

My earliest memory of my mother is one of fire.

When I was just a bit older than 2, the church up the street from our house went up in flames. Being a regular small town gal, my mother dragged me along to watch the flames. I remember staring from the other side of the street as the structure went down.

After that, I don’t remember anything until I was 5 or so, and someone was at our house to evaluate me for school, testing and talking. I wore a red and blue dress that my mother had made.

I remember flames, I remember dresses, and yet I hardly remember my mother’s face.

I wasn’t born to this mother. I was given, and received. A gift, a long awaited, joyous arrival. Something special. I was told repeatedly throughout my childhood that I was different, and special. That I was chosen. That I was wanted.

My childhood was full of the knowledge that I was loved. I can think of nothing better. But the trouble is, often I can’t remember being loved-I don’t remember hugging my mother, I don’t remember being affectionate at all with her, aside from cuddling up with her to look at the Sears catalogue on grey Saturday mornings. I can’t remember hearing her say she loved me, although clearly it didn’t matter.

I don’t remember the little things, mostly. I remember that she loved her tea milky with lots of sugar, and I’d drink the little tiny bit she’s leave cold in her teacup. I remember that she didn’t like color on her nails, preferring clear polish. She had a fork that she preferred. But what I don’t remember, or really even know, is who SHE was. Why did she take me to that fire so young? Why was it important to go?

I found drawings once that my mother had done, before my father threw everything out. She could enlarge almost anything by hand, and had a great talent for pencil drawings. Did she dream of doing anything with it? Or was she happy living in the shadow of my father’s incredible but wasted talent for painting and sculpting? What were her dreams?

Surely she didn’t want to be sewing hems forever, as she did to bring in extra money. Years after she died, people would come to the house looking for Dianne to alter their pants. Usually I’d be the one at home to tell them she was dead, had been dead for years. Did she touch people that much that they’d remember her after all that time? Was that what she wanted her legacy to be?

I want her voice back. I want to hear it again. I want her soft arms to encircle me, I want to smell her perfume. I want to play in her closet again and sit under her dresses, stare up at her jewelry. I want to pin together all the pieces and cobble up a full mother. I want to look back into the face that I love and meet her head on, as her daughter, as a mother.

My father tells me she would be proud of me. He reminds me often that she loved me. But she didn’t know me anymore than I knew her.

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4 Responses to ““Life began with waking up and loving my mother’s face.””

  1. sweetsalty kate November 1, 2007 at 6:49 pm #

    This is gorgeous, longing. I can’t seem to say much else, but I’m all full up with your words. Really, really lovely.

  2. Gwen November 2, 2007 at 8:40 am #

    My mother is very much alive, and still, I can relate to this. There’s so much of her that I just don’t know and I realize that it will be the same for my children and me.

  3. bine November 2, 2007 at 2:56 pm #

    i can feel every word of this.
    it’s strange, even though my mother died when i was a grown up woman, i still feel there were many things about her that i never got to know or that i only relised after her death. i often wonder about the dreams she might have had, and eventually gave up.
    it’s also incredibly sad how memories fade. i have a recording of my mother’s voice, but it’s not like i remember her voice at all.

  4. thordora November 2, 2007 at 3:41 pm #

    I find myself talking to my Dad and realizing just how much about him I don’t know-how much of his life I’ve never been a part of, and likely never will be. And how much of that was stolen from me when my mother died.

    And maybe it’s how it’s supposed to be. That distinct line between generations maybe keeps each one pushing past barriers and reasons.

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