“I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little - if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.” - Coco Chanel


I Need My Mother

(originally posted to Myspace on Sunday, May 11, 2008)

I have questions to ask my Mother. I've needed her many times over the last 28 years, but as of late, the need is so strong it overwhelms me. She has never been there, except in my mind, where she tells me buy good quality shoes, walk tall, and to put a vinegar rinse on my hair to get the soap out.

At eighteen, I was invincible. I remember the bliss of being 18 with the sense that the world absolutely, unequivacably belonged to me. I was attending college, working part time, doing aerobics 4 times a week, and enjoying being in love (well, what I thought was love). The world was a bed or roses, and I was wallowing in the petals.

Being the oldest of 6 children, and another sibling on the way, fit me perfectly. I'm an extroverted sanguine and as first born I was boss. My Mother ran a smooth household and not much was required of me. I of course had chores, but was basically foot loose and fancy free. With that many children the chores were spread out fairly thin. Baby number six had been born the previous summer, and the new baby was coming in July. Then my Mother got sick. 

She loved romance novels, beautiful shoes, classy purses, and White Shoulders perfume. I remember her sitting on the sofa with piles of laundry to fold and a book in her hand. If the outside door opened, she'd stuff it into the sofa cushions out of guilt over needing to be folding. She often reminded me to brush my hair 100 times nightly and to take smaller steps when I walked. She made a full wardrobe for my Barbie one year for Christmas. Never dawned on me to be suspicious that each time I walked in the room where she sewed, she'd cram it in the drawer and jump up. I distinctly remember her standing at the stove. She'd boil chicken, lots of chicken for tetrazzini. When I walked up beside her she'd slip me a large piece as she deboned. I honestly believed I was the only one she gave chicken to until discussing it some years back with my sisters. She gave us all chicken with each of us thinking we were the chosen one!

I heard her tell someone when quizzed about how she loved "that many children", that she did not divide her love, she multiplied it. She carried a handkerchief to match her outfit each time she went to church. There was always a half roll of breath mints in the center of her hankie. She bought peppermint flavored Certs since none of us kids liked that flavor. That way she was guaranteed mints for service.

I am older now by five years than my mother was when she died. During my pregnancies, I simply did not think I could bear my mother not being at my side. But you continue to breathe, even when you are sure you can't draw another. While going through a difficult divorce, I grieved deeply yet again. Questions you feel no one but your mother can answer swirl in my head up to this very day. How do I deal with empty nest syndrome? Do teenagers ever become normal again? What is your recipe for German Chocolate Pound Cake?

I became an adult overnight. If our family was a tree, it became huge splinters. My Dad didn't know where his socks were, and for some unknown reason, he assumed I did. We were all still hungry, our clothes got dirty, school was still in session, yet Mother was not there to feed us, fold the clothes nor get anyone up.

Anna Quindlen said in reference to her mother's death, that she performed for a theater of empty seats. As if to say "Look at me, Mother, I did good. I'm okay. I'll get by." Much responsibility fell on me in the early days after her death. My eight year old sister at the time held my hand non-stop. She wouldn't get in the tub nor go to the restroom alone. The 18 month old baby would go to my closet where I had hung my her favorite robe and ask for "Mama?". I felt I had to perform as if my mother could see my every move. I was responsible.

When I reached the age that my mother was when she passed, I simply freaked out. I felt it wasn't fair for me to live longer than she did. But oddly enough, I figured out that loss makes us happy in some ways. I am aware just how short life can be. I attribute having my priorities straight to being conscious of just how precious and fleeting life can be. Her death taught me well. I want my love of life to be ingrained in my children.

There is a hole in my heart that will never be filled. My children may never understand what this feels like. My hope is they never will. Oh I know I shall die someday, but I pray they will have led full lives and have years of love and the cushion of spouses and their own children. We didn't have that when our mother died. I was too young to truly know her and absolutely too young to learn to live without her.

With tears dripping from my chin, I realize I would trade the knowledge that I must live life to the fullest for what I lost so many years ago.

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