It always bothered me that her mantel was important to her; the decorating of it was as predictable as the seasons, just less joyful. You could hear her creative gears shift when September skies began to dim well before dinner was served. Bedroom windows were always cracked at night for optimum sleep. And the preparation for the many-months-of-mantel-extravaganza would begin. She would say to dad, “It’s time to bring in the Halloween bins.”
Mom would spend the better part of a day unveiling and placing each Halloween piece, delighted that our living room would remain ominous until November...eerily engulfed in red hues of flickering light. While I could appreciate the effort, I was not allowed to touch anything. Sure, that’s hard for a young kid, but it’s even more painful as a young adult. So much so that I refuse to buy or rent a place with a mantel. At one point, my mother said, “when we are ready to downsize I plan to dress each seasonal mantel and sell it, in full, to the highest bidder” because the idea of splitting things up would “kill her”. God forbid, her kids would get any of her valued pieces or shared memories. God forbid we would end up like her...in love with a flat piece of wood that holds you and your stuff up from season to season...joyfully filled with everything but love.
the prose tech blunder
Okay, this is nutz! theprose.com is not working tonight. Messed up my words, I can't edit, it has given my zero power over my words.
From my naive perch....I observed them. Yes, knowing very little about love, life, connection or commitment, I watched them...because I found watching them so enjoyable. They interacted seamlessly. They were easy together. Just! So! Easy! Together! And because of that, they put whoever was around them at ease, including me.
I was an only child, with zero reference to family dynamics, because it was just me and my mom from the very beginning - my father giving nothing to me other than his DNA. Although my mom was wonderful, and did what she could with every available resource, when it came to my examples of love...I relied on Mr. and Mrs. Perez. Not only did they treat each other with enviable respect, they gave that same level of respect to my mother from the very early years of her fractured life. And then, when I came along I, too, became a lucky recipient of their unconditional love.
They enveloped us as if we were their blood relatives, making us feel something so much grander than what we would have felt had it just been the two of us in the world. They included my mom and me in everything they did...often saying, “welcome at all times”, and they meant it. And I felt it. They encouraged my mother to explore her passions, believing she had the potential to harness a better life for herself. Never with the intent of letting her go, but rather with the intent of lifting her up. While she was busy rising, they gave me their time and those same directives. Here I am, at the tender age of 7, relaxed and comfortable, feeling so connected, absorbing the things in their life that were important to them:
- Allow yourself to be loved.
- Love with all your heart in return.
- Share your love beyond its boundaries.
- Tell someone they matter.
- Tell them they do have the potential, then believe that to be absolute truth.
- If you have room for others, make that room.
To this day, I have navigated my life guided by their principles. I am the biological mother of 6 and the receptive mother to many more...all loved and encouraged in equal measure...because turning my back or shifting my gaze on anyone was never an option.
A Mother’s Love
It's 1944....she is 25 and pregnant with her first of ten children. She truly believed her role in life was to mother....and she took her job very seriously. Every example she set was good, and she rarely negotiated when your safety and wellbeing were at stake. She gave birth to me - her baby - at the age of 44, and over the course of my life's trials and tribulations, her love for me never faltered. Ever.
I married in 1988 and within 5 1/2 years suffered the loss of 5 pregnancies...including a set of twins - one lost on a Tuesday...the other, sadly, the following Saturday. I was beyond devastated...but because of my mother, her love of mothering and her belief that I, too, would be a great mom someday....I carried on.
Although that marriage didn't last, I did...and so did my faith that being a mom was still an option. I luckily met my second husband when I was 36, and miraculously gave birth to my first child when I was 39. Following 3 years later, came my Little Lou, who completed my puzzle.
Luckily, my mother lived long enough to welcome both into the world and see me mother, a job she believed I was destined to have.
Finally, a job found me!
In Easy Reach
I loved that the first thing she did each morning was walk to her bedroom window. I could tell from the way she lived her life that she was a well-informed woman...and likely knew what the forecast was in advance, but I'll be damned(!), she always seemed surprised when she parted the curtain panels. Some mornings were still quite dark...storms pending perhaps? Other mornings, the window framed a page from a child's coloring book, post-crayon play... with joyful colors abounding. BUT no matter the day, no matter the surprise, she remained at that window for a moment to take in all in...and smiled. She always smiled. I liked that most about her.
I also liked that she had a round table in her room... just left of the window, kitty-corner to the foot of her bed. The only function the table had was holding the things she liked to look at, like photos...lots of framed photos...a Waterford lamp from her grandmother and the things she grabbed most often - - like her daily jewels. She was simple in nature and kept pretty much to the same pieces each day. Less concerned about trying to impress others, and more about the fondness that grew over time for each piece.
She was an organized individual...a-place-for everything-and-everything-in-its-place kinda girl...so her underbed space was used very efficiently. She would slide covered plastic tubs out from season-to-season, and always worked diligently to keep her bedroom neat. One tub held purses and bags of various shapes, sizes and textures. It wasn't a small tub, and while all contents seemed content, I was curious about their shared space. You see, I never made it to the tub. When not with her, I've always landed on that round table....among her other heart-fortifying go-to's. I liked it there, and I think she knew it. I loved the start of each new day as much as her...maybe more. Whether I went out with her or not for the day, I always knew we started the day together... And that, for the both of us, seemed to be enough.
Little Miss F.O.K.
She just didn’t stop. Truly, if there was a question asked, she answered. An inquiry regarding a restaurant, gym, salon, hotel? Of course(!), she had been...and didn’t like it - here’s why. Oy! Ever the authority on everything, she was delighted when Facebook became a reality, and communities (HERS!) created community pages so their residents could communicate more readily, and in their pajamas - day or night - but always (and hopefully) with a level of respect one might have given to a neighbor over their picket fence years ago.
On her village’s community page, residents would share their recent coyote sightings or alerts that a raccoon was seen staggering on their block. All in an effort to keep those with pets and small children safe. Some would give a shout out to a local business, with the encouraging words to “support small business”, and to reinforce “how lucky we are”. Robust eaters would declare a new restaurant in town a hit, “Bring the wife, the kids, bring the beer..this one’s BYO!” Others voiced irritation, and wondered why planes recently started flying so low, and why-oh-why were there sooooo many?! “Arrrrrgh!! So disruptive, I can’t sleep.”
Although most residents wrote encouraging words to those with messages of frustration and despair, or “shame on you, play nice” words to others with silly little gripes... Little Miss Font of Knowledge always attacked from an intellectual perspective “It’s all fun and games until somebody gets Lyme Disease from the ticks they carry!”, to a new mother who posted a picture of her toddler, in his playpen while a mother deer and her two fawns snacked on her garden offerings in the background.
It has become a bit of an amusement to the residents who actually have face-to-face conversations, an old-fashion-building-of-community, if you will, so they often joke about “hearing her knuckles crack off in the distance”, or how they notice smoke billowing out of her chimney on a hot summer day with the quip, “Someone’s keyboard is on fire!” She once rudely replied “Google, anyone?” to a young resident’s quiry, “What’s distemper?”
She is like a self-proclaimed executive chef of a restaurant that hasn’t opened....so importantly unimportant. She should quit serving. Quit ladeling out her knowledge bits. Quit asking others to dine on her smarts. Her public is losing interest and she is running out of time.