I had a preoccupation as a little girl that people around me would die. Actually, it wasn’t about people around me, it was my mom; I actively worried that I would lose her. There are moments when the pangs of fear that I would feel come back to me, not as fear of losing her now, but that very raw feeling of being 8 and afraid that she’d be swallowed up by something and be out of reach to me.
I think it was in that time, in those moments in our house on the hill, the twists of brown and gold rug beneath my feet and the weight of fearing my mom’s death all around me, that I developed my tendency to say that I was enjoying something.
“I love this walk, I am so glad we decided to do this.”
“I am just so happy we’re swimming.”
“I cannot get over how happy I am that we are here.”
I never for one second wished for anything more from my mom than for her to keep being my mom; she was my perfect. When I was about six, she wore her hair swept back in small knots, a rectangular piece of leather and a small stick holding everything but a few carmel tendrils that swayed behind her ears. Some nights she’d put rouge on her cheeks. I was fascinated by the small compact, with its perfect circle of color. Her usually bare face would look extra, that was the word I used, extra. I can remember being awed that she could even get prettier. We’d watch tv together sometimes and I’d see the Solid Gold Dancers all glammed up in sequins and shiny lip gloss and the stars of Dallas in their dresses and drama, it never occurred to me to wish for a sparklier version of my mom.
It’s why it’s so strange that as a mom, I live in dogged pursuit of perfect. I want to do/be/act/look perfect to my girls, but none of the things that made up the rightness of my mom for me were within her control. It was the way she smelled after a shower or the way she sounded, always whistling, so much so that it was how I’d find her in crowded places—just listen for her whistle, Manda. It always came, she always came, swathing me effortlessly in the comfort of her perfectly, just right.
This year as Mother Day looms, I am aware that I am older than she was when I worried that she’d disappear and that the perfect that I pursue in my own role as mother is something that I already possess. I am understanding more keenly that she will die and that I will die and that perfect isn’t a thing, it’s a fit. This truth has me spinning lazily in a place of utter contentment and anguish.
My mom was the forever that I wished for and the perfect that I trusted. Never having been Hallmark people, the sea of glittery cards hold no appeal, the specially curated Mother’s Day arrangements of flowers feel forced, the responsibility to tidily mark this day stymies me.
Loving those moments as I did, I can still hear the sound of my mom’s floor length skirt feathering in the wind, I can see the way the soil from the garden smeared along the hem of her shorts and caught in the pores of her skin. I know the beginning of it all with my own girls as if right this moment it were that September morning and I was feeling my youngest latch on for the first time with Sean quietly weeping beside me. As I type this with tears streaming down my cheeks I swear I can smell the lotion my mom used and the way it clung to the summer air around me.
We all have different stories—nightmares that torment us, inexplicably simple things that soothe us. We have people we have loved beyond compare. The thing I wish is that as we stutter step to these different holidays that come with so much weight, of expectation or of loss, that we feel bold enough to roll the idea of perfect around in our mouths and taste that we may already have it.
It’s not a size or an outfit, not a relationship without warts or a title without tarnish, it’s a place or a person that fits.
My mom was my first fit, and the comfort and safety of that will be with me always.
Can you put words to your comfort?
Tagged: holidays, life, Mother's Day
Amanda, your words are always so perfect and so beautiful. I could read you for days. They are more than just words in a story, they are memories and your words make me feel like I’m there. Beautifully written, as always.
Well, I am always glad to have you along in my stories. Thank you, Debi!
I loved reading this.
What a perfect comment, made me glowy!
…the forever I wished for and the perfect I trusted…
You put so much into words with impossible beauty.
I can remember every moment (even though I have never seen these pictures!).
The way your little cheek felt, your spun gold hair.
To be read every day, on or around Mother’s Day for the rest of my life.
Oh my heart.
Love you, mama.
My mom wore a necklace with macrame hippie tassels and — in my childish memory, anyway — actual pieces of cinnamon stick in it. That smell was HER. The essence of her. As much as her freckled skin and easy smile.
The other night at dinner, my son prayed for papa to be strong, and for mama to have good skin.
I had to laugh, but I also had to cringe, too, because I hadn’t realized that he sees me peering into the mirror and making noises of displeasure.
I don’t care too much about Mother’s Day as a holiday, but you have rendered the relationship and the reason for its celebration with such tenderness — and a reminder that there are so many ways to be beautiful, and to be seen.
Love this comment so much. And I really enjoyed your post about kids getting more independent. http://www.fingerfold.blogspot.com/2014/04/as-we-go.html
I hope my children will look back someday and find the thought of me comforting, as you do with your mother here. I know they will not find perfection in their memories of me, but if they remember the love and the laughs, I will be content.
I am sure that they will.
Hmm. Last night I read a poem I had written about my 16 year old to her.
We live, I am afraid, in the land of disdain. Everything I do, or nearly everything is up for judgement by rolling of gorgeous brown eyes, or disengagement or emoticon texts that convey indifference.
She was getting ready to go on a run and had her shorts on and was rubbing her belly in my studio doorway as I read.
I expected her to flush and condemn.
Rather, she flushed with joy.
I was stunned. I had read with a nervous voice, stepping carefully around the phrases I thought she’d not like.
What I loved about my mother, that comforts me, is when she’d say my name. When she’d call out to me. When I felt the tether that connected us. I miss that the most right now. She has been dead for over three years.
So, last night, letting my daughter in to the ways I am touched by her being, saying her name in this more embellished and personal form of a poem, I realize now, reading your post, is my way of calling her in.
Let me be comfort to these beasts I live with. Let my voice be what they yearn for. And may what they hear in their hearts be sweetness and at least a tenth of the magnitude of love I feel for them.
I won’t soon forget the way you strung together so many potent descriptions of the many faces of your girl. I admire how you celebrate her growing fire.
I had a similar thought to Shannon’s . . . that I would love my kids to remember moments like this. The perfect and imperfect all blending together that just made me their mom and mom enough.
I am unwise for waiting to read this in the coffee shop. And not wearing waterproof mascara.
This is absolutely beautiful.
Do your tears come out sparkly 😉 ?
What a wonderful post. Nostalgia and memories are so powerful and meaningful. My remembrances of comfort come in the form of the scent of Shalimar perfume my mom used to (and still) wears, the smell of toasting english muffins late at night when my dad would eat them before he left for work at midnight, being called “my little mouse” by both my parents. Cantaloupe melon and Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins that my mom would only make in the summer time.
I believe all these little things from our own childhood, help make us the mothers, aunts, wives, women that we are. Finally at the age of 43 I am starting to stop caring what others think, or trying to live up to what the external (aka internet) view of perfect is. Instead, these days, I am striving for content and comfortable.
I love your blog.
I love your memories, so potent. Thank you for this comment. I wasn’t sure if the meandering of that post would be something that people could connect to, happy that it did with you!
Wow, at first I thought that was you in the photo. You look so much like your mother. It is your mom, right? Anyway, just wanted to say this was a lovely tribute to read in the still after-glowy feeling of Mother’s Day. I know EXACTLY what you mean by “extra”. I think about it with my own mom when she’d put perfume on, and sense it from my daughter when she sees me wear a dress (for a change) and gets visibly excited. I know I’m a day late, but I hope you and your girls had a special day together yesterday.
Yup, that’s my mom!I am so glad that you get “extra” and I can see our girls identifying it too. Hope you had a wonderful weekend!
Oh my goodness. I am new to your blog, and reading this brought tears to my eyes. My mom died a few month ago, and this was my first mothers day without her. Granted, we’ve lived over a thousand miles from one another for 10 years, we talked very frequently and I visited her as much as I could. I can still, to this day, smell the scents of her baking, hear her voice as it sounded when I was young, and so much more. Two days before she passed I had a dream that she and my father (who died a few years ago) took me on a drive to help me remember places and things I haven’t seen or been to since I was too young to even have memories of these places. Were it not for family members confirming things, I would have doubted it. I guess it was one last memory to carry with me, and I thank her for each one she gave me.