Beautiful Things, Mothers (and yarn)
You regulars knew this was coming: in the aftermath of Mother’s Day, a musing on my mother, Jane Lawton, who passed away in November 2007. Newbies (and those who don’t need to hear about Jane), feel free to scroll down to the bottom and read about the yarn giveaway, since there isn’t much knitting content here. Those who might be curious, you can read about Mom trying to knit and Mom convincing me to go to England if you like.
I found this book of poems, 1000 Beautiful Things, in my mother’s house this past fall. Mom used to read me poetry out of it when I was young – probably 6 or 7. [I find it funny that one Goodreads reviewer calls the book "nationalistic claptrap," and I'm looking forward to seeing whether I agree. But I digress.]
I particularly remember one day that we were sitting by the fire in our family room, taking turns finding poems we thought were funny or too serious, when I came across a poem about grief:
I cannot say, and I will not say
That he is dead–. He is just away!
I was too young to understand grief, and I think I found it funny that someone would be confused about the status of a loved one – dead? alive? who knows! – so I started reading it. There are some lovely moments in the poem, which it turns out reminded Mom of her father:
Mild and gentle, as he was brave–,
When the sweetest love of his life he gave
To simple things–: Where the violets grew
Blue as the eyes they were likened to…
When I finished reading the poem, I looked up to see that Mom’s eyes were full of tears. She explained that she was thinking of her father, who had died a long time ago. As it turns out, Clarence England died suddenly at age 63 of a heart attack – very like Mom’s death at the same age. Of course, she didn’t know then how similar their deaths would be, but I’ve thought about the moment with the poem quite a bit since she died. “He would have loved you,” she told me that day, “not just because you were my daughter, but because he loved children.” These days, I imagine telling my own children (or nieces or nephews) about Mom. [Before you people ask - no, there is no next generation in the works, at least not so far. I just think about it anyway.]
She, too, loved children, and was both gentle and brave. She didn’t have blue eyes, but late in life was known to announce delightedly that her eyes, which she’d always thought were brown, were actually hazel. Quite the character, my mom. She liked to laugh, and she wrote poetry, and she cried at cheesy movies. She loved to dance, and she liked to tell people she was an Okie from Muskogee, because she was born in Muskogee, Okla. She always had candy in the candy dishes in her house. And she used to host this insane, huge holiday party. She would wrap up all the swag she’d gotten at conventions in the past year as gifts, so everyone would unwrap, you know, a stress ball, or a Comedy Central t-shirt, or whatever. Also, her holiday decorations included an Animated Singing Christmas Tree. I kid you not.
All these are some of the 1000 (even more) beautiful things about mom. It may be mom-centric claptrap, but it’s true nonetheless. Were those things beautiful when she was alive? Not all of them, especially not that danged Christmas Tree. But now that she is gone they all seem divine.
These days, I understand the feeling that someone who has died seems just around the corner, and the comfort in the idea that they could have just gone away somewhere. In our minds, the person who has gone is still so alive. Especially with sudden deaths, it’s bizarre to think one cannot access the other person at all. When Mr. Trask’s father died (also suddenly), several people said to him, “But we just saw him,” as if we might just have misplaced him somewhere. I understand that feeling completely. Oddest of all is not being able to talk to the person about your experience of their death; so many different aspects of their lives seem different after their life is over. I believe that is what made my mother cry that day, in part – the fact that life keeps going on after those we love have died, and the fact that we can’t share with them the new insights we gain as life continues and they stay behind.
So, in this month of both Mother’s Day and my Mom’s birthday, I’m thinking of all the beautiful things I’ll tell the next generation about her, and all she is still teaching me, even from wherever she is now.