Please play video as you read this post. It is an accompaniment to the text.
Having recently read two books (WILD and Rachael Herron’s A LIFE IN STITCHES) where women wrote of their mothers extensively, I have been thinking a lot about mine.
It is very hard to believe that she has been gone almost two years. As time passes, I feel like I miss her more and more. It feels as if she has gone off on a trip and the more that time goes by, the more I think, “isn’t it about time she came home?” Enough already.
My mother was a pianist. She had studied piano in college. I think she loved it. It is hard to tell. Sometimes she spoke of the hours of practicing and of her choice of piano as a study major with ambivalence. But her piano meant a lot to her. When she and Ferd planned their move into an apartment and out of the house in which she lived for almost fifty years, she was unwavering in her determination to keep her piano. Whether she still sat down to play or not, the piano represented something important to her.
I remember when I was little lying in bed at night waiting to fall asleep, she would sometimes sit down to play. The melodies would drift up the stairs. To this day when I hear DeBussy’s Clair de Lune I travel back to that time and am once again lying in my bed drifting off to sleep as she plays. It is a song that is at once so wistful and haunting and also somehow hopeful. It is a song which ebbs and flows with emotion and truly carries the listener along on a journey.
I think it was a difficult time in her life. As a child, I was oblivious to what she was going through. I knew only that my father was gone. I missed him, but now I can understand that her life was broken. Her heart must have been filled with anger, hurt and loss. My mother once told me that divorce was the best diet on earth. That was much later. Playing alone at night after her children were in bed must have been an attempt at calming her emotions. She must have felt so alone and abandoned as she played. For me, lying upstairs, it was something beautiful.
Another memory hit me this weekend when we were in the country. Sitting in our living room is a black wooden rocking chair. This was a rocking chair my mother refinished many, many years ago. She re-finished a whole suite of furniture in black with gold stencils. It has taken a beating over the years. One arm has a broken piece of wood and it is more creaky with each passing year, but it is the chair in which my mother held my brother and I to read us stories or comfort us when we endured some childhood trauma. There is nothing like the comfort of sitting in your mother’s arms.
Of course, I was fortunate enough to rock my children in this chair as well. Amazingly, while there was no more comfortable place than my mother’s arms as a child, I found out as a parent that that is one uncomfortable rocking chair especially with thirty pounds in your lap.
When my mother died, we gave her piano to Hepzibah House in Oak Park. She would have liked knowing that her piano would bring joy to children with troubled lives. It was Ferd’s idea and it was the absolute right thing to do. They put a plaque on it with my mother’s name. One of her friends actually was there one day and saw it.
There is so much I inherited from my mother. She had a tremendous love of and sense for color. I think I gained some of that. Certainly I love color. She was both creative and imaginative. I hope that is true of me. She had a style of her own, a wonderful sense of humor. She had mannerisms and expressions that I not only see in myself, I see them in Ellie. When I asked Jim what behavior or trait of mine reminded him of Bobbie, he said, “talk constantly with your daughter.” That thought makes me both very happy and very sad. It makes me very happy to think that there is a direct line between Bobbie, myself and Ellie. Actually, it goes one step further back to my grandmother. The thought makes me sad because I would give so much to be able to pick up the phone and have a good long chat.