Joanna and Jennifer, 1965
"Lace the skates and hit the ice, and stay the course." -- Joanna McClelland Glass, Trying
As a very little girl I would play on the old, salmon-colored tiles in my parents' bathroom while my mother got all dolled up to go out. I had a collection of colorful pencil erasers shaped like animals, and one evening I was playing with these as my mother got ready. I was chattering on and she was distracted, politely saying, "Oh, yes," and "Is that right?" but not really paying attention to what I was saying. I thought I would impress her by counting my erasers, which I did, and there were eight. So I said, "Mama, I have eight erasers." I guess she thought I ate erasers because she responded, "Eaten," less concerned that I might have actually eaten my erasers than that I had used poor grammar to tell her about it. I must have shot her a confused look because she put her mascara down and considered the exchange. Then she laughed and laughed.
I love to make my mother laugh. For years I did a little dance for her at night before I went to bed, hopping on one leg like an old vaudevillian and announcing in a Jimmy Durante-like voice, "See you in the morning with the sunshine on my face!" It never failed to delight her. As I got older we had some tough days in the difficult high school years. If I was feeling generous, though, I could always diffuse the tension at the end of the day by offering that same little dance and declaration.
When I was two years old my sister, Mavis, and brother, Lawrence, were born -- twins. Even with three small children, Mom always made time to read to me. I remember countless hours snuggled up with her as each magical story unfolded. She showed me that words can ache and sing.
My mother is a writer. With one film produced, two novels published and three plays on Broadway, she taught me, by example, that writing requires discipline as much as inspiration. As a child I fell asleep nearly every night to the clack clack clack of her typewriter. To me it is a sad side effect of the ubiquity of computers that I never hear that lullaby anymore.
My mother lives across the country now and I don't see her as much as I would like. This year, especially, I wish we lived closer. There's nothing like being sick to make a girl want her mama.
I remember her cool hands on my forehead hot with fever, and bowls of soup when I had a cold. I can't smell menthol without thinking of her massaging Vicks VapoRub into my chest and swaddling my neck in flannel when I had a cough. If only a mother's healing powers could soothe away a tumor, and I could see her in the morning with the sunshine on my face.