13 April 2012

The big and the small.

Dear Mom,

Last night, on my way home from work, I thought about what we'd talk about if we could (Rise, Mother, rise! We are under April skies and I need our nighttimes back. It is lonely walking home without you). I started writing these letters to you when death crept closer, when we were in the delicate waltz. Now that Death has gone riding, the things I want to talk to you about are small. I got new lipstick on Monday, I think you'd like it. My kitchen floor is sticky - should I use ammonia to clean it? Yes, I know, never mix ammonia with bleach. The girlfriend is just so tired. Let's go get a manicure, Mom.

Today is my birthday, Friday the 13th, just like the day I was born. You were 25 when I was born, you worked as a secretary at McGraw Hill, you were married to my father, you lived on the East Side and I was your first born, Leigh Michelle. Your father, Papa Leonard, died 2 years before I was born, but before he died he liked to have lunch with you at the McGraw Hill commissary, and he teased you gently, his last-born, Blanche Susan, his only daughter, and it made you so mad - you wanted him to take you seriously. I know Papa Leonard, I never met Papa Leonard, one day our children will know you, too. You named me after Papa Leonard, and one day, I will hope I will have the joy, and the sadness, of naming someone Blanche, the third Blanche in our family.

So let's talk about small things, Mom. Tell me the story about Aunt Bernice being annoyed, on April 13, 1979 - she had to take a taxi (or the subway, or the train, I can't remember?) home because she was having lunch with Nana Hannah when you went into labor, and tell me how Uncle Dickie missed his chance to ride shotgun in the Hebrew School carpool because Nana Hannah gave birth to you (she was 40, Papa Leonard was 50!) the week it was her turn to drive and he was so mad. I think he still is mad, the wonderful kind of mad that you can only be at someone you really, really love.

I woke up early this morning and I lay still in bed in the quiet. And then I read my emails and I had an email telling me that I won a contest for a fancy pair of pajamas. Mom, I knew I was going to win, just like I new I was going to win that coffee table, just like I knew, all winterlong, that you were going to die soon after my wedding. I was right. If you are very still, and listen very close, you will know, and I know, Mom, that we love being cozy, that being tucked in bed is our favorite place to be, and I know, Mom, that the silk pajamas I won are really a birthday gift from you.

Thank you, Mom, for giving me life, for giving me a beautiful life. Thank you, Mom, for the big and the small.

Your first-born,
Leigh Michelle

09 April 2012

Dear Mom,

Today is your birthday. You would have turned 58 today. We're going to spend your birthday together, Mom, me and Adam and Michael. Bianca Batnick will be there, too, and you would love her. We took a nap together in your bed last weekend - I slept in your spot, and she snuggled in, sleepy pup, and snored, like you used to. She gives Michael such nachas and that would make you so happy. You just wanted us to be happy.

Maybe we'll have lunch at Hildie's today, we'll see Uncle B and Aunt Joan, and we'll have dinner with Justin, Sheree and Addison. You won't be there, Mom, but your family will be together (nothing was more important to you than family), and we will think about you, like we do every day and every night, and we will talk about you, and we will cry, and Michael will tell us the story about when you came home and told him you had been "flying low" (Petey's expression for fast driving) and he laughed, and your eyes welled up with tears and you said "Don't laugh at me!" and Mom, we will laugh, because we love you, and you were our cutest mom.

Mom, you flew low through life. 57 years was not enough, and what I wouldn't give to hold your hand, and say, "Happy Birthday, my girl. I love you."

I am, always and forever, yours,
Leigh Michelle

06 April 2012

An Appeal from Whistling Swan, the Doll Maker's Daughter.

A few months ago I wrote the foreword for the book which accompanied Animal Cabaret, an exhibition of the works of Alice Mary Lynch, Paris-based dollmaker. We plan on more collaborations - her work moves me enormously, and I feel so blessed to have one of her dolls living with me soon.

My mother made an army built of stuffing. We were warriors, our armor bursts of jewels where, on you, there would be flesh. Our hearts are in her stitches; tight seams keep our armpits from surrendering to the push of our gossamer insides. Like you, we are complex, but our veins and capillaries are on our outsides. Though our thoughts fire in mounds of gold, they are as real and true as the ones inside your head. We are beautiful, we are knock-kneed, we shine, our eyes some dun, some stars. We are soldiers sent forth from our mother's fingertips, to Tokyo and New York, Bombay and the Barbados. Think of us, for we think of you.

The winter air was crisp and cold but a warm light glowed in the undergrowth in the early hours of the morning. You are in my mother’s land and in the naked copse, bare in the crystalline air, a glint cuts the shadow. There goes The Love Cat, the Dark Princess, Luke and Edward Hare, the Silver Hare, the Hare Prince, a Lost Romantic, a Rat Soldier, The Black Angel, The March Horse. The White Stag flies past last, and you don’t believe your eyes, but it is he, it is we, our mother’s army.

This is the denouement: Were you to disembowel me, my parts would shine in a bowl, yet I am more than the sum of my parts. I am a network and you cannot extricate one part or undo one vein without collapsing my beautiful beak, the efflorescence of my tail, the sway in my walk. Love me as I am, as she made me. Love me, and I will be yours.

03 April 2012

7 stars.

On Friday night, I dreamt of my mother. My last dream with her was terrifying, a nightmare like those of childhood, the kind where the waking world is so close but nothing in your small body can will you out of Hades' domain.

On Friday night, my mother sat propped on pillows in Nana Hannah's bucket chair, the one covered in apricot and violet and wedgewood blue Henri Rousseau palms. I was going through her closet, pulling out sweaters, jeans, work shirts and she sat there sick, but smiling, sick, but at peace, and she said to me, "It's okay, after today, I won't need that" and I said, "You're really okay, aren't you?" and she smiled and said "I am. I'm really okay." Over and over I told her, "Nothing makes me happier than knowing that you are okay."

The Rabbi told Petey that he never saw anyone go through the dying process with as much grace as my mother, and when Petey told me, I smiled and felt so proud to be her daughter. My mother lived with cancer for eight years - she lived through cancer, she wound around and above cancer like a magic flute. Until it was time to start dying, she lived, and when it was time to allow death into our home, she did knowing that her dash was as big and joyous and full of love as was possible: she had done that rarest of things - she had lived life to it's fullest. When she was still able to sit on the couch by the bay window, in our house by the bay that was always full (sometimes too full, but she was so loved), I could see her hover between two worlds, between the temporal world of her children, Petey and his sons, her brothers, her grandchildren, her friends, her nieces and nephews, and the world where her parents were (she felt her toes tingle, they were touching her, bringing them to her in the beauty of return and golden light and an old home made new). There were times that she didn't seem to see us, where my presence didn't call forth her smile, and it broke my heart, but I knew my mother had to begin letting go from the world she ate like a brownie sundae, and that gave me peace, for I did not want her to be afraid or be too sad to leave us. I needed her to know we would be okay, and Mom, we miss you does not suffice, but we are okay.

On Friday night, in my dream, my mother gave me a gift (for she was): she is okay. It is okay for us to sell the house, it is okay for us to give her clothes away, it is okay for time to move on.

Today is our first wedding anniversary. Like L. said, "Sadness will roll in with the tides of mundane memories, with holidays, with realizations about the lack of phone calls. Unfortunately, it will eventually come." The phone did not ring this morning. My mother did not call. Time is moving on. You cannot push against an ocean