Have you ever looked into your mother’s eyes and seen past the woman who is caregiver, chef, and chauffeur? I have. It was 1986, the year I turned sixteen.
That year, my mother threw me a huge birthday party, Fifties style. She bought hoola-hoops and poodle skirts and drove me and my best friend all over downtown Fort Worth in search of records — old 45’s.
My best friend and I fell into each other and giggled, while my mother danced around the record bins. When she lit up over a find of Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill” and Sam Cooke’s “Only Sixteen” and bubbled over with stories about when she was a teenager, we gawked. She was more alive than I’d ever seen her. It was as if I’d discovered a window to a secret room; for that moment, she was my mother, but she was so much more.
As I thought about writing this post, I searched through a stack of old pictures and found this photo of her:
My mother was a model. I forget that sometimes. Some days, it takes me a minute to remember that she was also an actress. And, an artist. That she painted a self portrait in secret when I was ten, and my sister and I weren’t supposed to see it. She was a mystery; sometimes when she laughed too hard, she sounded as if she were crying.
At almost forty-one, I am neither young nor old but am almost the same age as my mother when I turned sixteen. When I look in the mirror, I see her neck, her freckled shoulders, her brown eyes. And, in those eyes, I see pieces of myself that amount to my whole.
I am a mother. But, besides that, I am a knitter. A writer. Sometimes, I am an artist. Once in a while, I am a baker. I can bake a killer loaf of bread (and by that I mean a loaf dense and heavy enough to kill).
On the outside, I am crow’s feet and a soft, post-childbirth belly; but on the inside, I am 1986 and 1992 (another good year), spirited and mysterious in my own right. And, when I wrap my arms around my children and breathe in the scent of their freshly-shampooed hair or the essence of their good and hard play outside, I think my God, on top of everything, I am a mother!
Yesterday, I picked up Natalie Merchant’s CD, Leave Your Sleep, and her song “Bleezers Ice Cream,” reminded me of the many facets behind every mother. There was so much more to mine than I knew; I wish I’d stood longer at the window and studied her more.