Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fish Stories

I awoke this morning with my Mother's voice in my head. She wasn't in the room with me, she is hundreds of miles away in another city. But her voice was so clear and specific it startled me. Once I sat up and oriented myself to time and place I realized it was the voice of my Mother's youth, not her current, more senior voice. A lot of the lilt and laughter of her voice have fled as she suffers from terrible arthritis and her days are now filled with struggle and immense suffering.
My mother taught me much, as most mothers do. One of her greatest gifts is she taught us all the "great riches" of life are free. We all learned to find joy, excitement and satisfaction in God's gifts; to love and treasure a blooming vine, a starlit night, sun rays streaming through a tree canopy, a hint of ocean in a summer breeze, the strident demands of the beach birds, the glossy healthy coats of beloved pets, the smell of a gardenia under your window and the delight derived from the observations of all God's creatures. Great riches indeed.

Throughout my life one of my greatest riches has been my mothers laughter, her wicked wit, her lilting voice when happy. I so miss the sound of my mothers voice.

My mother is staunchly " Southern" in all things. She has known and practiced every nuance of manners and etiquette. She found this roadmap for civilized behavior very relevant. She has also spent a lifetime sharing her gifts with others, aiding those in need, teaching and requiring manners from all her offspring, and always endeavoring to encourage her children to be appropriate and groomed in all things. I was maybe her biggest challenge in that last category. In fact today's wake up call was on that very issue.

I so clearly heard my mother saying,
" Fishy quit fidigiting , you simply are not going out of this house until we get this done".

I know exactly what my mother was referencing. I heard that statement pretty much continuously throughout my childhood. The issue is my exuberant head of hair. I hail from a family of straight hairs. You know, individuals who can wake up in the morning , run a comb through their hair and look good? I am not one of those. Some ancestral dna made it to me and I have a different hair color and texture than the rest of my family. What I got was complex. A lot of hair but each strand extremely fine and very curly. Not an organized type of curl, more of a flyaway messy curl. Lots of it. Some of the kids in our family actually find it entertaining to tell stories about " Aunt Fishy's air hair". It is virtually weightless and therefore sort of hovers around my skull moving in rhythm with prevailing air currents.

Needless to say, when managing my hair was still my mothers job it was one of her biggest frustrations. She tried everything to control my hair into some sort of organized, presentable style but pictures from my grammar school days clearly show the difficulty of the battle. Poor Mama, she simply was not acoustomed to putting forth effort for no return. Countless family outings were delayed while efforts were made to " Do something with this child's wild hair".
The fact that we lived in a very humid part of the South magnified the issue, and the challenge.

Washing my hair was a struggle , once it was toweled dry it was a huge mass of knots and tangles that no comb could penetrate. Individual strands had to be coaxed from the mass and detangled. It took an hour to comb it out with lots of commands to
" Be still Fishy!"
and even more ouching and wailing from me. If only in my youth there had been detanglers and conditioners my mother could have been grateful for yet another source of "great riches".

My mother tried braids, pony tails, long and short cuts, none achieving the "presentable" groomed look she was striving to achieve. She did discover over time that long hair was better than short. The shorter my hair is the curlier, and wilder it gets. No amount of barrettes or hairbands could maintain order. Long hair is actually heavier and so relaxed the curl a bit and if nothing else she could always braid my hair. That too was hard because the ends of the section would curl into tangled knots while she was actively braiding the upper section. I remember countless times where my responses to this were a challenge to my mothers belief in good manners in all things. My hair stressed her very last nerve. Her efforts stressed my pain threshold. There are pictures of me where I look slant eyed rather than my normal round eyed look. Mom would determinedly keep maximum tension on my hair while braiding in order to conquer the challenge of ending with a neat appearance. What resulted was a sort of a stretched looking facelift from hair pulled so tight in gave me the slanted eyes and made my head hurt for hours.

Mom valiantly tried every suggestion anyone offered.
When I was very young someone recommended she try the old fashioned trick of rolling my hair up on socks. That is an interesting process as hair is sectioned from crown to tip then rolled under on a sock which is then tied to hold the section in place. The theory is the weight of the wet hair and the sock would pull down and straighten the strands while the part rolled in the sock would dry into an organized curl. Mostly what happened was she had to cut my hair loose from the sock because untangling was impossible. When I was 10 she took me to a much sought after stylist named Olaf for recommendations. The solution advanced was to give me a perm to control the curl. What actually happened is the chemicals in the perm burned the hair off my head. There is no school picture of me for that year.

So this morning I awoke to Mama admonishing me to be still. I did stay put for a while thinking about the challenges and despair I brought to my mothers life. Shortly after the reminiscing I came to be standing in front of a mirror evaluating my hair. It was not a well mannered or presentable look. Not even close which led me to again hear my mothers voice, this time declaring ,

" Oh Fishy this will not do, this will not do at all."

It was a nano before I realized I was speaking aloud but I heard myself say,

" God Mama, I would shave my head just to hear you laugh again".


pam said...

I had the straight hair that was forced into perms and that same tight pony tail. And I love this post. I know exactly what you mean. Lost my momma some years ago and there's something about that voice and period of time that makes you lonesome for them.

fishy said...

So well said! I think "lonesome" is precisely the issue. My mother is definitely in peril so I am in the stage of fearing what is to come;
missing terribly what has been lost and dreading the loss of what remains.

Savannah said...

Your beautiful and charming style of writing always soothes my soul. Thankyou.

fishy said...

So very nice to hear from you. Really generous of you to praise my writing too, that's a gift. How about you? Do you have a child-mother story to share? And Gypsy, how are you doing?

Anonymous said...


Sniff......I could cry.
Really do know what ay mean since our own Granny
Cracker is jes out of the hospital.blessin's
On yore mama, Fishy.

Why not cut trsesses short and glory
In a curly cap that's allowed to be itself??

Anonymous said...

Hey hey Gypsy !!! We miss ya!


sparringK9 said...

this was a fine read. it made me reflect on so much. i cant really remember the last time i heard my mom laugh. and i didnt know that until right now. what can i remember? what WILL i remember? in my minds eye i remember a mom on her on after a divorce. just me and her. i can remember hearing her sob into a pillow through the wall of my bedroom. even with a bathroom between us. then the next morning she would get up and go to school and then a job! i was a total pill of course. a freaking thoughtless hellion. but i did love her and admire her. i do love her and admire her.

i like how you have written about her. its very bittersweet -a bit more sweet than bitter which i am seeing as your special style fishy. you always infuse everything with a -hell i can never use the word "hope" again - sunny forward outlook.

on the hair front. well i have the easy hair. one time when i was little i washed my hair all by myself. i made lots and lots of circular motions and knotted it up real good. and my dad was the only one home. he couldnt comb it out. so he cut it off. and i DO have that school picture. i believe it is first grade.

i could use one of your moms facelift hair dos. think she'd mind?

great post fishy. thanks.

fishy said...

thank you, and the same for your own dear Granny.
I've had my hair every length and miss the days when my hair was waist length because a long , low tail or a wrapped updo were the easiest to manage and maintain. The shoulder length I have now requires mucho daily maintenance, chemicals and time. And as I wrote, certainly much of the time it " just will not do at all".

Your dad cut your hair off rather than comb it? Howl!!!!
Mine got "pixied" a time or two in my youth and it was not pretty.
So very interesting what dreams bring to our consciousness. I have not dwelt on my Mother's scarce laughter but awakening to the memory of the sound of her youthful voice must have brought the awareness.

I agree with you because it IS more sweet than bitter because today I learned my mothers laughter will never be lost to me.

Kymical Reactions said...

goodness, Fishy. Maybe you should schedule a trip to visit your momma.

I'm sure my recollection of certain instances when I was wee may differ somewhat from what my mom remembers. But I think all in all I was a pretty darn good kid. Mom might argue that though.

Doom said...

Those dreams are so intense! You describe it so well. And in the waking process, it remains even for a time. I too have caught my self backsassing my Mom, only half awake or even more so but not able to escape the emotions from the dream. I loved her, and regretted it, but I didn't know what else to do!

As a sort of boy, strong willed, and with natural curl that only looks right about half of the time, and takes training, which every haircut undoes, I know some small portion of your troubles. Lord did she fuss! I was her black sheep from the getgo, in every way it seems.

And though I can still hear my mother's laughter, and she shares her joys easily to this day, I know the pain in her voice sometimes. It has been a long and sometimes brutal life for her. She can mostly keep up, and not always have to fake it, but I know time passes quickly and her time...

Mothers, what to do about them! What a fine telling.

moi said...

Beautifully written, Fishy! Each day that passes, I find myself sounding more and more like my mother. Weird, how that happens. Thank you for a story that will stick with me for quite a while.

Dani said...

This is so beautiful Fishy.

I'm gonna go call my momma right now.

fishy said...

Hey Kym,
I have no doubts you and your Mom both have great stories from your childhood .... be interesting if you posted on the same subject from your individual perspectives.

Truth is Kym, there are a lot of us kids and my Mom now gets overwhelmed when we are all around at the same time. She prefers one on one visits now so it will be a while before my turn rolls around again.

I like that you use the term "backsassing" :-) which I can assure you was not considered mannerly in any circumstance. Poor black sheep hellboy just getting your unruly hair trained in time for a trip to the barber. Yes, I agree with you, the memories can be so intense you can have quite the emotional 'hangover'.

good luck with the half marathon and thanks much for your kind commentary.

Jenny said...

How lovely. I often dream about my Mother and I'm amazed how my brain can re-create her voice. I wake up and for a few moments I'm confused... not sure where I am or how her "visit" in my dreams could feel so real.

I've also enjoyed reading the comments about how others feel about their mommas.

fishy said...

I hope you had a delightful telephone visit with your Mama.
Thanks for visiting the Pond, come often.

The places dreams take us is nothing short of miraculous. A dream can create or recreate an experience , can bring us our mother's voices from afar , can infuse us with every emotion.
And yes, I love this came to be about the mothers.

Godspeed to you each.