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.