Don’t you know rainbows disappear honey? Imagine a world where they never fade, just big ol' arches over wide open spaces. Well soon enough it would be like cages, you would have to fight through a sea of rainbows just to find a patch of gray, how would you know happiness?
I curl into her life. She is my imaginary mama, she is sweet and smart and she will only take so much sass. She does not like this self-pity, she can see right through it.
All that thinkin’ about what if, girl, and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt.
She throws language together, a colorful casserole of tender shoots, meaty chunks, spicy secretes, hotspots. Her hair is white, which means she is wise. And of course she is like a pillow. Of course I lay my head in her lap, and curl up, like I am little and this will fix it. Because in the back of my mind I still know that touch is worth something. That her strong hands might heal me, that touch for the sake of healing is what I need, and she can do it.
I watch her wring things with her strong hands, see the gray water run down taught ropes of laundry, her pink palms smoothing cloth, trunk like arms raising wet quilts in the squinty sunshine. I watch her in the kitchen, kneading flour clouds. She can take a few ingredients and suddenly arrive at an arranged marriage that only lasts long enough to stay perfect.
In the kitchen she shuffles and sings, kicks one jolly ample leg out to the side, gives it a little shake, crinkles her nose at me and rumbles with laughter. She is delighted to be herself. I sit at the table while she stands in her loudest housedress, in a pool of light, peeling long tendrils without looking down. She can stare right into the past, right into the future, drop potatoes into a big green bowl and not lose a finger. One knife for everything, an extension of her hand. Her hands can see.
She is magical, lyrical. She sees me ugly and loves me anyway. I have seen her curse the dog for digging a hole near the foundation of the house, but I have also seen his slinking reparations, his blinky brown eyed apology, the one that finally gets her approval back, the one that gets a scratch behind the ears. All you have to do is tell her you know better now and she will rub your belly with a HEE, hee.
She makes scrap quilts, loves soap operas, grows peonies without ants. She makes birdhouses and sells them for handsome profits, she can work a scroll saw “like nobody’s business”. She has a boyfriend, maybe two, and they play chess on the porch. He brings her flowers every Saturday and she puts them all over the house. She bakes cookies, keeps a scrapbook and wears a rainbow scarf and a brown hat when she goes for her walks. She takes naps in the middle of the day. She laughs at the birds at the feeder, scolding squirrels to get her mean out. She has made a baby blanket for every child in her life. She has Easter egg hunts, girl weekends and goes to Vegas at least twice a year. She wears the red Doc Martins I bought her to the flea market. She refinishes old things and makes them better.
When I am troubled I curl up under her lavender afghan, on an overstuffed flower, with from-scratch hot cocoa and some John Updike. Or I laze about on her hammock, smacking my gum until she asks me to shuck corn.
She is a thing which never existed, never said no, never fell off the wagon and got all dusty and broken. She will never get old. She goes when I do. When I am fifty she will still be a wise no-age. She is built out of sunlight, grass and leaves, sticks with nice curves. All the smiles I never saw.
For the first time in my life, I let myself be held, like a big old baby. I surrender to your charity.