On the evening of April 11, 1981 a young girl approached her small 3-bedroom home that she lovingly dubbed “mustard house” for its yellow shade of paint. The front door opened to a long narrow hallway that spilled into a modest living area which was the center of the home. To the right of the living area was the breakfast nook and kitchen and to the left were the living room, bed and bathroom. She walked through the front door and entered the narrow hallway. And, even though her closest family and friends were not far behind, she had never felt so alone. Her small body ached and the bruises were beginning to surface. Her blood stained clothes were torn and wreaked of gasoline. This young 12 year old child was emerging from a state shock induced by a terrifying day and leaving her with an uncertain future.
There was a deafening silence as she approached the kitchen. The room was still and eerie. Her eyes focused on an object sitting in the center of an oblong wooden table marked with years gone by. This object so poignant, so lonely, so appealing and so simple, was a coffee cup. There it sat half full of coffee, stale and cold from the morning past. Lipstick captured every crease of her mother’s smile. She stared at the cup, the color of lipstick and the coffee that touched the lips of her mother only hours earlier. She studied every line and crease from the tender imprint left upon the brim and imagined her mother sitting in that chair, at that table as she appeared every morning and from this moment a young girl’s life was forever changed.
As you might have guessed, I was this girl many years ago. The thought of that coffee cup often finds its way to the top of my thoughts. For it was that day that the little girl I had enjoyed being would resolve to the responsibilities of an adult woman.
The coffee cup represented a time and place I have longed to go back to so, so many times in my life full of what-if’s. When the coffee was hot and full of aroma at that very moment my mother was carefully sipping as she sat at the kitchen table. There are so many things I loved about my mother and as I have grown into an adult and a mother myself, I recall the many things that I took for granted. I am thankful for the short time I shared with my mother and thankful for my memories of even the smallest of things.
To fully understand me and my life with all of the challenges I faced as a child, a teenager, a young woman and a mother, I must begin by describing the impact this woman had on me in 12 short years. I leave this story as a legacy to my children to understand where they came from and who I am. I leave this story as a tribute to the woman and mother that gave me life and love with her entire soul. Enough love that it was a powerful presence that carried me through and made me who I am. But, most importantly for my children to know that life can slap you in the face, knock you off your feet and turn you upside down but only YOU have the power to shape it. I don’t know who said it, but I do believe, “life IS what you make of it,” good or bad.
I could begin here and share the accident details and how we ended up so broken and out of sorts but you really wouldn’t know my mother and that would be truly tragic. It is important to really know this woman, as I remember her. When I think of the times I observed my mother, my memory is as if I was looking upon Christ, Mary and Joseph all rolled into one soul and standing before my eyes. Of course, I do not believe my mother was a Saint but to me she was Saintly, loving and very beautiful.
As far back as I can remember into the 1970’s, I spent many mornings staring in amazement as she teased her hair, pulling small sections with a pick, holding between her fingers of her left hand and raking a comb up and down meticulously with her left while letting loose of just enough strands to give her that “ratted” look. When the last section was complete she looked as though she had been standing in a puddle of water when an electrical storm snuck into the house and passed through our tiny bathroom electrifying only her hair and leaving her skin unsinged.
Next, she sectioned her hair again and curled each one, carefully rolling the iron under and then taking her pick once more, she lightly lifted each curl. She picked these curls apart until her hair laid neatly together in a symphony of strands that she called “fixed.” “Fixed”, was a common term women used during this time and many sought the assistance from a trained professional once per week.
The heights of her dusty blonde hair astonished me. As I learned, this style was a bouffant style hair-do. While the “ratting” never changed, the altitude of this symphony descended over the years leading into the 1980’s to a lift just three inches above her scalp.
Meticulous as she was, she did struggle with her weight through the years. Always wanting to please Daddy, she began to drink more coffee and eat less actual food. She practically starved herself but lost close to 100 pounds. There were lots of rumors that she and my Aunt Sharon used prescription diet pills to aid in the endeavor but I guess I will never really know for sure.