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Denise Vivaldo Headshot

Missing My Mother

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It took years after my mother's death before I could dream about her. In my dreams now, she's in her 50s and still incredibly beautiful. We are usually laughing or shopping or cooking in her kitchen.

I'm not sure why it took my mother so long to come back to me. Perhaps it was her long, sad death and she needed some private time to be restored. Or maybe we were both pretending it wasn't true. Many days I would imagine that she was just busy getting settled in her afterlife. My mother was always a busy bee, and she felt compelled to decorate anything she came in contact with.

My color and visual skills come directly from her. She never looked at a room, a table
or a person without thinking she could make a better presentation. She was not afraid of speaking her mind. She loved to make improvements, and my father was a real estate broker, so her work was determined. She owned a dozen dream homes. As partners, they bought
the ugly house in an expensive neighborhood, and she transformed it. By the time she was finished, the "dog on the block" had been reborn into a "show place."

This was never a job; it was her life.

Whenever we moved to a new home, my sisters and I were never sure what furniture would be there. When I questioned at 16 what happened to my antique canopy bed, she simply replied, "Oh, I forgot I had sold that bedroom set with the last house, the buyers loved the furniture! Quality really does hold its value. Not to worry, Neesey, we are keeping you."

Once, I came home from a college ski trip and opened the front door to a completely empty house. My boyfriend said, "Wow, it looks liked they moved." They had. I knew she had not abandoned me, because her color-coordinated phone was still plugged in. Thirty minutes later, the phone rang and she gave me directions to the new house. I was grateful I had a car. And a compass.

Whether you wanted my mother's decor suggestions is a whole other story. But, as I heard every day of my life, what we see determines our mood; let's make it beautiful!

And as my mother went on to her next life, I knew she would find new transformations.

My mother talking to GOD: "Oh dear, we have to add color. Everyone is happier around color. We will start with the walls... and the gates? That shiny gold is so last year, maybe a patina finish or more bronze. Here, let me show you a sample, and the angels... well, if we're stuck with the wings, we will just have to play to them, there is no way to hide that kind of design flaw. But all the girls need lipstick. And next week, seriously, GOD, we have to talk about your haircut. If you lost the beard, you could look a hundred years younger."

The re-decorating of heaven must have taken up that first year. Then she moved on to my father and her explanation about her second marriage. I know that took some time and sales skills.

"But Johnny, I needed someone to take care of and you left me. I really didn't have a choice. And you know I didn't love him at all like I loved you."

She was cute and always had an exuberant presentation.

And then for the big close, she'd remind him of her surprise at the reading of his will, when she found out that he left all their money in a trust fund with us daughters in charge. When she asked me once, "Why did daddy do that?", I had to tell her what he told me.

"Doris may sleep with other men, but none of them are spending my money." Direct and to the point, that was my father.

In preparing for our next dream meeting, hoping that it's on Mother's Day, I have bought white roses, pink orchids and fancy new soaps. I will use her pretty china cups for my breakfast. I will cook something delicious for my husband. I will call my sisters so we can share a favorite mom story that we have already told each other a hundred times.

And when I sleep that night, I will be comforted by the beauty all around me, because what we see determines our mood.

Denise Vivaldo is an award-winning author and food stylist. She is lucky to have inherited some of her mother's talent.