For my mother, on turning ninety one years old
When I think of you, which is quite often, I clear my mind of the bad times, the passive pastel and white cotton nightgowns of you, sitting by my bedside, singing an Irish lullaby or on really bad nights, folding me tightly with a blanket that in my mind at eight or ten or thirteen was never warm enough, but your delicate hands, when asked, "Wrap me like a papoose," worked like the Disney magic that probably instilled the nightmares and nightwalking.
There was always the blue of you, shades I could never understand, too cold for my liking. Thin blue into green on walls painted poorly, not strong enough with obvious drips and uneven places, disordered to save money to cover the verbal abuse and nights of too much alcohol and you, crying as Dad reverberated through the walls and I couldn't stop your sadness. I could not protect you then so I imagined Dad dying and you finding a man to dance with and love you to sleep. Night after night.
After quiet grieving, you traveled, bringing brighter blue and yellow pottery back from Portugal. Placemats for the kitchen table became riotous with colors and seasonal themes. Suncatchers of glass or plastic filled the large front window, as if you followed the Sun's path throughout the day, napping in the afternoon on the same sofa Dad spent his last days on, uncomfortably.
Before neon pinks and greens became fashionable, you wore them, and I am ashamed to say I was embarassed until I was not, since despite my artistic background and short-lived modeling career; I'm no fashion queen by a long shot. By then, your strawberry blonde hair had gone grey, then instantly pure white, or so it seemed to happen that way. And you became more beautiful without trying.
With your green tea eyes and love of the ocean, I hope one day to burst forth in lavender or the deep purple of my breast cancer years, as you have, in remembrance of a long ago friend who gave you cuttings of wisteria, somewhat trained and trellised by the next generation, my eldest son, who listens more than he speaks and can quote your random wisdom, word for word.