I’m not my mother
Or the young girl
She wanted me to be
Surrounded by friends
Pretty with curls in my hair
Dressed in cheery colors
Enjoying a childhood
Unlike hers lived in fear
Of gossip and taunts
From girls going nowhere
Despite their self-assured
In my mother’s world
I fought against my mother. Refused her regular advice about clothes and colors. Felt ashamed of her outgoing ways and her polio-scarred body; her face devoid of make-up. Nothing could hide the tremor on the left side of her face. Or the sight of her estranged mother arriving at grade school, dressed like a diva bearing gifts to her royal daughter.
I endured with chagrin and barely suppressed anger her attempts to make my straight thin hair curly and fulsome, like her beautiful auburn hair.
And…she taught me to play the piano. Cook. Clean. Starch and iron clothes. Make beds. Fold towels and sheets. Organize drawers and cupboards. Things her absent mother never taught her.
There’s a saying I remember from my growing-up years. I didn’t care for it; my mother did. Her kitchen wall hanging proclaimed it boldly: “Bloom where you’re planted.” I couldn’t; neither could she.
Two lost souls thrown together. One extroverted, the other introverted. Both lonely; intelligent; eldest daughters; desperate to be loved and heard; musicians from the inside out. Overshadowed and dominated by a world of men. Unable to play and sing our songs freely without fear of having our wings clipped.
And yet…every time I read My mother’s body, I feel a tug at my heart. Pulling me back toward her. Not out of pity, but with understanding that’s still taking root in me. Softening me toward her and toward myself. Especially when I’m playing the piano, and feel some of her musicality playing through me.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 February 2019
Photo of winter snowdrops found at pinterest.com