Thursday, October 15, 2009
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".