He says, “One day you really have to start writing about something else besides your dead mother.” “It’s hard,” I say.
Four years later and she’s still on my mind. She floods my consciousness—the water rising till I almost drown—her all around me. I see her floating past me, a mermaid reminding me to wear a sweater, the way she always did when she got cold.
I see her in her bedroom, putting on Revlon’s red lipstick #4, getting dressed for church, White Shoulders perfume sprayed generously on the handkerchief she stuffs in her purse, the handkerchief she got from my grandmother, hand embroidered from her mother. I watch her hold it to her face, inhale, stare out the window, and then pin the letter "G" to the lapel of her black velour coat, yelling to me, “We’re gonna be late, call your brothers in from outside,” and “When you see your father, ask him to back the car out of the garage.”
After she died I found wads of Kleenex in her purse, that embroidered handkerchief, her rosary, a picture of her and my father on their wedding day. She told me once the contents of a woman’s purse reflect what’s important to her. Her wallet only had a dime in it. There was also a folded yellowing cellophane wrapper with hair in it with my name on it, baby photos of my brothers, and one of the baby she had who died shortly after birth. I try to swim up, up, already drowning. I see her again, this time on our annual family bike ride in 1986 on Thanksgiving Day. Mother gladly taking up the rear, her family in front of her was the way she lived her life. When she crashed and fell in the ivy, no one heard her cry for help. Happily peddling we went miles before noticing her missing. And still she made it there before we did, home. With calamine lotion from head to toe, she said grace and then served us turkey dinner.
Today, there are no more family bike rides, just a husband who misses her more than he acknowledges, and her children living their separate lives. Funny how they never mention her, ever, at family gatherings. The void she left is unspeakable. I would love to write about something else, anything else, I tell him. “Maybe tomorrow,” I lie to him. “But today is Thanksgiving, her favorite holiday,” I say, putting on my coat and fumbling past wads of Kleenex and an embroidered handkerchief, in my purse, looking for my keys.