Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mother's Day

On Facebook, many of my friends have posted photos of their mothers in honor of Mother's Day. For days I've been reading posts about mothers who inspire, mothers who are present, mothers who are gone.

As a mother, I appreciate this. As a daughter, I am filled with longing. Rather than post about my mother, I figured the best way to deal with this longing is by sharing this snippet from my memoir.

There are days when, encountering a woman my age out in the world with her mother, I am struck by a tsunami of envy, grief, anger, sadness, bitterness (!) and I tumble, taking shallow breaths and refusing to weep until I can get my feet on the solid ground of survival, until I can grab hold of remembering that I am okay now.

Laughing, bickering, walking together in silence, even arguing. The daughter, my peer, says, “Mom!” or “Mother!” or (sometimes) “Mommy!” and I am submerged in a longing so deep I know I will never touch bottom. One look at them and I can see what these daughters have learned from their mothers, see the ways they cannot help carrying all their mothers have taught them, see that there are some things they have taken on by choice: a certain flair, the habits of grooming, the legacy of caring and guidance.

I am standing in the shoe aisle at Marshalls, surrounded by the hodgepodge of footwear from last season, the season before, the overstocks of the latest fashions cast off by a ritzy department store. A woman in a Chanel jacket, crisp white blouse, black trousers, tasteful gold chain gleaming against her Florida tan set off with the just-right-shade of red lipstick reaches for a pair of flats. She drops them on the floor, wiggles her right foot out of the shoe she is wearing, revealing manicured toes under a veil of nylon. As she slips her foot into the new shoe, the fingers of one hand pressing lightly on the edge of the shoe rack for balance, she says, “What do you think of these, Liz?”

“Um,” I say, startled that she knows my name.

“Let me see, Mother.” Her Liz steps into the aisle. They look at the shoe, considering it carefully and so they do not see me looking at them, considering them carefully. The daughter is wearing a nearly identical outfit (though she has on jeans), her hair is slightly more modern version of the mother’s bob, the diamond on the daughter’s left hand set in platinum rather than mother’s gold, both have short rounded nails with French manicures. “They look just like the one’s you’re wearing,” this other Liz says, and they lift their heads in mirror image timing and laugh.

I leave the store and when I get into my car I have to take ten deep breaths before I can even think about turning the key, starting the engine, maneuvering out of the parking space, driving myself home.

12 comments:

groovymini said...

Sometimes when all appears to be just so, all those things in order, it may just be an illusion. There is alot of dysfunction out there, alot of pain. I feel gypped (jipped?) my mom is no longer here. My mom's mother (my grandmother) was schizophrenic and when I was a kid I couldn't understand why my mom seemed mean to her and avoided her. Everybody does the best they can with what they have to deal with. Life isn't fair. All you can do is be the mom you'd want to have. It's the only thing you can control. And from what I've seen, Elizabeth Hilts goes over and above that - amazing recipes and creative ideas and love for her family - in fact, you have my vote for "Mom of the Year".

Amy C. Kaplan said...

Beautifully done, as usual. Have a great day with the fab four.

Elizabeth Hilts said...

Thanks, groovymini.
Thanks, Amy.

tinawrites said...

Honest, sad, real, and really really beautiful. Thank you for sharing this most personal of memories.

Much love to you,
Tina

abby jenkins said...

Mother's Day is one of the toughest days of the year for me, second only to my birthday. Losing my mother after a very short illness, at such a young age, was devastating and my longing for her voice, her hugs, her smile never goes away. I still have "Marshall's Moments" almost two decades later when I reach for a postcard to send her, a scarf that would match her sparkling blue eyes.

Having a wonderful husband who showers me with love and flowers from my little black furry baby sure does help, friends like you who know how to put that feeling in to words, priceless. Now hand me a damn tissue! Come over to the garden soon...

xo

Elizabeth Hilts said...

Abby, so many things help, like having friends who share their love. I'll be there as soon as I can.

Elizabeth Hilts said...

Thanks, Tina.

D.D. Vital said...

Amazing writing as always, Hilts. A very Happy Mother's Day to you!

Elizabeth Hilts said...

Thanks, Destenie. Happy Mother's Day to you!

kasha2010 said...

What a wonderful piece. But you always put me in an introspective mood when I read your work.... and I'm currently practicing denial.

Hugs to you, and Happy Mother's Day!
Kasha

Elizabeth Hilts said...

Thanks, Kasha. Hugs to you.

groovymini said...

I have to tell you, that the very next day after I read what you wrote, I went to church. It was Mother's Day and I was by myself and they past out carnations to all the Mother's. I took my carnation and went to the Memorial Garden to see my Mom's Memorial stone and place it there. Actually, I think I might have grabbed a second one to bring there, I forget. So, I place the carnation, I know you're not "supposed to" put stuff there, but I always do anyway and I don't care. There were these two boys playing in the Memorial Garden fountain. I turn to the older one, who looked like his hair was all wet, and asked "did you dip your head into the fountain?", he said, "no it's gel" I said oh, ok. He was so cute, he came over and asked about my placing the flower on the stone and who is that - I told him it was my mom, and he asked how did she die? Now, I am completely blown away at this point because here's some little kid actually caring about what I'm doing and my life, I tell him that this is my mom and she was young and died of cancer after 18 days, and he asked if he could give me a hug (!!) This kid is no more than 12 years old, I say ok, his brother asks if he can give me a hug too......ok, I gotta go because I don't want these kids to see me crying....I tell them to tell their mom "Happy Mother's Day" and think wow what a great job these parents have done...I saw the pastor and told him briefly what happened and he says they are real nice kids...I go into the bathroom and start bawling, so glad they can't see me, Callie Sullivan, first selectmen elect is in there and she lost her mom and is very understanding. I get my act together and go to felllowship....I am talking to Gail who works at Columbus Magnet School - where these kids go! She tells me that these boys have been through alot, their mom is in an institution and they live with their father, and I am thinking OMG I had said say Happy Mothers Day to their Mom as if they have some completely intact positive family, they don't say any different, and they have been through so much, and I think about Liz Hilts and her story and how cool she is, and I hae kept thinking I could tell you in person about this because I can't describe the magic of it all and how ironic it was that I just read your post the night before.