My mother is a magical woman. She could take the simplest things and make them seem luxurious. Everything, from food to clothing, was special and even precious in her hands. She cooked and sewed and knit and crocheted. She refinished furniture, made Christmas ornaments and wall decorations with felt, and knew how to scour a thrift store for things that could be recreated from kitsch to chic with just a little love. She knew how to take different articles of clothing and piece them together into outfits that looked designed to go together. She filled my life with books, creativity, and love.
I never knew we struggled for money but I remember my mother being distressed because she was in danger of being fired from her job. This distressed me because I thought her being fired was something akin to being burned at the stake. No wonder she was so anxious.
I don’t know how she managed to infuse my life with so much wealth when I know we were not wealthy. I grew up going to museums, the ballet, movies, and so many wonder-full places. There was the church that had a living crèche with a live cow, donkey, and a couple of sheep. Between the zoos, horse/cat/dog shows, and even pet stores, I touched wild life. Of course, this was back in the day when a child would go to a movie and see film shorts and, if you went to a Disney movie, you would see a film about some form of wildlife, something that showed nature in an idealized gentility where there is no food chain and the prey always escapes the predator.
My mother encouraged me with praise. If I liked something in a store, she said “You can make that yourself.” Of course I believed her because so often I didn’t even realize that the sweater I was wearing or the dress I had gotten for my birthday was made by her until I found the left over yarn or fabric scraps tucked in a basket.
I wore the things she created proudly, and why not? She created me, after al. Without a father, it felt all the more as though I were my mother’s daughter and nothing more. From where I stood, that was about the best thing I could be. My mother was loved. I loved her and she had friends who loved her. The one time some foolish man broke her heart, she bought a plastic ball, one of those big colorful cheap ones, and a collection of mirror fragments and pieced them together into a mirrored ball, a meditative practice meant to bring her peace. Later she told me she hated mosaics because they reminded her of the busy work hospitals give mental patients to keep them from being too manic.
She knew how to seek peace when her life was too painful. And she somehow kept me from knowing she was lonely, that she wanted to be loved. Because of this, I believed she didn’t need anyone more than she needed me, needed me as much as I needed her, and nothing would ever, could ever change that. Because of this, I believed, when she left Larry Block, everything would go back to the way it had always been and I would no longer feel quite so lonely myself.