Saturday, May 17, 2008

It was Mother's Day

The Great Aunt never had children, though we assure her, she’s been like a mother to us and we love her for it. I don’t think this is enough to heal ancient feelings of bereavement – anyway, she rather despises the notion of being “in touch with one’s self.” She just knows it’s Mother’s Day, we’re getting ready for church, and she’s in a bad mood. She looks beautiful in her pink turtle-neck and gray wool jacket. She adds the finishing touch – dangly earrings. She manages to hang the left one. Then she hands me the other and commands, put it in. It’s a crap shoot. Sometimes I can get it through, today I can’t, no matter how I try. She’s giving me orders as she leans her head this way and that and we move toward the light so I get a better view. I push aside her hair and grasp her lobe between my thumb and forefinger for the umpteenth time. She says, just push it through the front hole. Have you? Have you? Now push down, angle it down. DOWN! PUSH! I get it in the front hole, but it refuses to come out the back. I’m wiggling the post, watching it pooch out against the transparent pink flesh, groping for the back hole. The tissue is so tight I’m afraid I’m going to pop another hole in her ear. I think I’m hurting her. You’re NOT! she says. She sighs deeply when I give up.

At church I notice the one earring still swinging from the side of her head – we forgot to remove it, but I won’t embarrass her by taking it out during prayers. She’s still in a temper about Mother’s Day, and has already anticipated that the pastor will make a big to-do over it. He tells us the church is blessed by women, that all of them are our mothers in Christ whether they have children or not and we honor them. But she’s not buying it, even though she is to us. Even when the kids pass out carnations to every human remotely resembling adult female.

We rush out after the service into driving wind and rain, knowing she’ll quickly forget this was a “special” Sunday. We take her to Elly’s Pancake house because, she informs us, she hasn’t had pancakes in years and years. Comforted by coffee and bacon fried crisp, her face softens and she smiles broadly as she watches the bobbing two-year-old at the next table - whose father is forking bits of pancake into her mouth, syrup dribbling down her front, and she, clapping sticky hands. I reach across and briefly hold The Aunt’s hand, thank you. Not for anything in particular, just thank you.

1 comment:

Shawna said...

That was so beautifully real. I love the Great Aunt, never pretending to be someone she's not and never hiding her true feelings! So rare and immensely refreshing. Thank you for these glimpses into your life, they go great with my morning coffee and Sesame Street in the background.