An older woman sat in front of us in Mass today.
Beautiful red trench coat with a hood, a beautiful red silk scarf peeking from beneath her short hair.
She reminds me of my mother… This is something my mother would wear.
Something she would wear.
Right now, she is relegated to one of 3 outfits my brother decides she can keep at her nursing home. She doesn’t see the sun, nor can she comment on the light sprinkly weather we had in Texas today. She doesn’t fix her hair. The only red in her wardrobe is a beautiful knitted throw I gave her for Christmas. Hopefully, it hasn’t gone home with my brother who is always concerned about “theft.” — Yes. “Theft” in quotes. There’s never been an incident in the place he chose to keep her. If anyone steals anything, I’ll just buy her another, and another. I wish I could buy her a red trench coat. And another. And another…
I wish I had my mother. With me, so I could dress her, baby her as she babied me.
So I can dress her the way I remember her.
There was her dust blue coat she’d wear when we went to the Shrine for those long walks from the parking lot. The same coat she’d wear when she had morning duty at her elementary school. She’d forever wear a scarf over her head, like a 50’s-movie-star. Mom was my Hedy Lamarr. Full of beauty, full of slight wisdom, full of fight for my Dad.
There were parts of her I wish I could remember — what she did, how she responded to life, how she led her family. I make it up as I go along.
When she was the age I imaginer her, I was a young 20-something, a 30-year-old Mom living in another city, trying to survive. We weren’t close. But now that my life has settled, what I have are the memories as she calls to me over the years. I imagine what she would say, how she would guide me. I make it up as I go along.
I am with my 9-year-old, who’s been my 9-year-old forever. She is the exact age when my Mom and I were Besties. The last of my 3 older siblings had just left the house, family drama was reduced to a minimum, and it was just me, Mom and Dad. Life revolved around school, the market, church and my backyard. I was The Baby, and I hadn’t yet been relegated dish duty or any absurdities of young adulthood. I was the apple of my parents eye.
They’d wake me, I’d eat my little breakfast Ma made for me and travel with her to work, where she was a teacher’s aide for Mr. Martinez, a math teacher. He was a god to her.
“Aye! Mr. Martinez!” my 50-year-old Mom would say at a joke he really didn’t intend to crack. He wasn’t confused by my mother, but charmed. He was the son she wished she could have.
There was grading with Mom, lunchtime with Mom, after school tutoring with Mom, open-house with Mom, pastel coloring bulletin boards with Mom, running the mimeograph machine with Mom, overhearing gossip with Mom, eating those extra apples from the lunchline with Mom, her big pockets stuffed with fun erasers and shiny pencils she’d find throughout the day with Mom… loving education with Mom.
When I relive these treasures, like I am now, there’s an energy from the past that draws me closer to my youngest. I live the past and the present in the same moment, a communion of my memory and what will become a memory for my daughter in an instant. I relive my life with my baby. And I live with my mother — I am with her, I feel it. I take a deep, deep comforting breath and I can feel myself sitting just a little straighter, the way Mom would want me to.
Si, sit up, Mijita. And don’t walk too fast, she’d say as she rapidly snaps the gum in her mouth. You know you’re alway in a rush…