Sunday, July 25, 2010

Memoirs Chapter 2:

A Different Kind of Mother

Our mother was not like other mothers. She was hard to love and harder to like. Independent and unbending, she had few friends and regarded most of the world, including her children, who mostly reciprocated her lack of natural affection, as unworthy of her interest.

She was meticulous about her person and of a late evening, winter and summer, in those days before indoor plumbing, we were all ordered to bed and she began her bath.

The night I, having slipped quietly downstairs on some forgotten errand, saw Mother at her bath changed her forever for me.

Pale and naked in the moonlight from the window above the sink and its small pan of hot water, her body gleamed like the inside of a sea shell, cool and incandescent. The flesh of her breasts, flattened by the needs of seven infants, was only a shadow against her upper body and the smooth roundness of her abdomen shone starkly white in the silverness of the window’s moonlight.

The scent of her bath soap and the vinegar she used to rinse her once-red hair filled the room.

Her very luminescence, in the dark kitchen of our home that night, seemed out of place and time,..a visitor from some powerful other world that valued more a stricter code..a cooler hand and heart..that did not belong here with us and certainly not to us. The hot winds and dry suns of the Midwest were anathema to such a one.

Before me was a person meant for harsh and vicious winters and the pale meagerly glint of a Celtic summer. Such a one required friends more fast and foes more ferocious than the weak genetic pool she was stuck with.

Of course I could not come anywhere near verbalizing these thoughts at the time, even to myself, but the experience was a powerful one and it stayed with me to be pondered upon and sorted out as facts came later, drifting into my life as our lives unfolded.

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