Artwork: The War At Home by Helen Redman
Black is not the color I wore the day my Mother died. That's not surprising really. Most people do not wear black the day their loved one dies. No, what I mean to say is that black is not the color I wore on the day I killed my Mother. On that hot Summer day I wore my blue Levi's, tight and faded, with worn patches on the knees and shiny fabric that hugged my bottom. A hot pink tube top covered my young breasts and little else. Snapping my bubblicious, I watched her die (or killed her, depending on your point of view) and didn't even realize it.
A hand on my arm brings me out of my reverie and into the present. Ah yes, the eulogy. Years late and all wrong. How dare that man stand there and talk of the wonderful wife and mother she was. What about the wonderful person she was? Who is he anyway?
The clasp on this handbag is stuck. I struggle with it for a few moments to no avail. Crisp cotton is pressed into my hand. Wiping my eyes I remind myself that in the end, that is exactly what she had become. A wonderful wife and mother. Gone was the woman who danced in the rain, sang rock and roll at the top of her lungs, and often ordered our dinner out because "the day was too glorious to spend in the kitchen".
Not once did he mention that I used to have to hide my gum because she too liked to blow bubbles. There were no kudos for the thousands of miles she drove in carpooling, taking us to sporting events, ballet recitals, and piano lessons. (Wait, that was probably covered under wonderful mother.) Nothing was said of the shouting matches she and my father engaged in, nor of the nights they spent in front of the fireplace when they thought us kids were asleep.
Hot tears rolled down my face and wore tracks in the make up I had applied so painstakingly only a few hours ago. New black pumps chafed my heels as the high neckline of the miserable, dark dress cut into my neck. Grief penetrated my soul. I tried to keep my grieving within the acceptable limits. (Loud sobbing upsets the other mourners.) My stomach hurts. The thing that twists my gut now, is that I condemned her to death with a laugh and a smart ass comment.
She was leaning against the kitchen counter surveying the damage. Pots, pans, plates, and utensils littered every available surface. Her jaw worked the gum. Peanut butter, toast crumbs, and kool aid dotted the counters, cabinets, and floor. Her customary smile was not in place, I remember that now, but in my youth I did not notice.
At her request I gathered my sister and brother. "Another bitchfest." I rolled my eyes. We listened with sullen expressions and impatient feet while she yelled, cajoled, and begged. Perhaps I should have realized when she stopped yelling and began pleading that something wasn't right. Maybe the tears should have tipped me to the seriousness of her plight. Possibly the tell tale sign came when she deliberately removed her gum and tossed it in into the garbage. She said she couldn't do it alone. "Please.....I need your help." she implored.
"That's your job." With a toss of my long dark hair, I went to answer the phone. Funny, I never noticed the corpse in the kitchen.
Everything changed after that. Not until I left for college would I make my own bed, wash my own clothes, or cook my own meals. So what if the music didn't play as loud as it once did. Forever after, my gum was safe.
"Look at her," whispered a voice behind me, "so like her mother."
My heart froze. That wasn't true. I am nothing like the woman in that box! Shaking hands tried the clasp on the purse once more. In my nervousness, I snapped it off completely. (Cheaply made, I thought.) A strangled sound escaped me then. A sort of laugh-sob.
Firm hands closed over mine, warm words that I could not understand were mumbled in my ear. Shaking my head, I pulled my hands away and searched in the dark recess, for what I did not know. Familiar items in an unfamiliar setting. Knowing fingers found the small square and curled around it.
"So like her mother." A well meaning voice agreed.
The gesture was made and I almost missed it. The eulogy was over, the question (more of a formality really) had been asked.
"Yes," my voice surprisingly strong and clear, "I have something to say about my dear departed one."
A hush fell over the people assembled. Was it because someone dared to speak, or was it the way the gum wrapper fluttered to the floor as I approached the podium on the raised platform?
Artwork: The War At Home by Helen Redman
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