Her Bravery

I distinctly remember the day my mom first showed me her bravery.

We were in my parent’s Chevy Celebrity. I think I was five. The corduroy seats itched the back of my knees, so I kept tugging on my skirt hem. I played with the hand-crank on the window, turning it up and down repeatedly. Each time it was down, warm air seeped inside and got stuck in my nose. And despite the floor being out of reach, I kicked my feet back and forth trying to touch my toes against the carpet.

We were car-dancing to Madonna when my mom gasped and slammed on her brakes. Our heads flew forward then slammed against the seats with a thud. I stopped kicking and car-dancing. Stopped playing with the window. Stopped breathing for the shortest moment.

Everything stood still as our eyes connected in the rear-view mirror. There, I saw concern and love, then determination and strength. All before she blinked.

“Oh, God!” she shouted. I exhaled and the world rotated again. “That car hit the little girl so hard she…” her voice trailed off. I heard the clicking and clacking of the car going into park and her seatbelt being unbuckled, then the slapping of the belt raveling up.

She climbed out of her seat, slammed her door, and stopped in front of my window. “You stay here,” she said, using her voice that meant business. Perseverance filled each line on her face in a way that I had never seen before.

I gulped down a breath bubble and scratched the corduroy seat to feel the fibers under my nails. I nodded yes.

“I mean it, Danielle,” she said.

“Okay, Mommy,” I whispered to her, but she was already jogging away.

I craned my head up to peek out the window and the smell of exhaust fumes overwhelmed me. It was a busy street that felt close to home, but I couldn’t tell which one it was. I saw my mom approach a girl lying face down on the pavement. She wasn’t much bigger than me. And behind the girl was a car. Its windshield was caved in and shards of glass glittered against the street. I looked away, afraid and unsure of what was happening.

Time isn’t the same when you are a child, so I don’t know how long I sat there avoiding the scene out of my window, but it felt like hours. I heard sirens and voices just beyond our car. I saw the flashing lights, but I couldn’t bear to lift my head and watch.

Eventually everything slowed. No more sirens, lights, or commotion.

My mom opened her door, sat back down in the driver’s seat, and cradled her head in her hands. “I couldn’t save her,” she wept. “I couldn’t save the little girl’s life.”

 

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Our Masterpiece 

Baby?

Will you paint me a picture?

Give me red first. Like lust. Then love, and sometimes anger, but always finish with love again. Orange for pumpkins during our favorite season, Detroit Tigers, and the street cone I tossed out of our nineteenth-floor window. Show me yellow like the sun at Coney Island and the hair of the first little girl I wanted to have. Green like the lawn I prayed we would one day own, and I suppose your favorite football team, too. Blues like the ocean in St. Thomas and tears I’ve cried, both good and bad. Purple for the flowers you bought me that one year.

Remember those?

Shadow and shade the death and sadness, because our lives have had that, too.

And please don’t forget gold for the ring that sparkles on my finger, and white for the dress the day I said, “I do”.

Baby? Paint our picture of forever.

Photo courtesy of Morgan Sessions/Unsplash.

The War Was Over – A Micro Challenge

The War was over.

After deliberation, a patterned cotton dress was chosen to wear. Blond curls were begrudgingly folded into place and complaints were made against the necessity of clean teeth.

In the end, we hugged. I straightened her backpack and she boarded the bus joyfully.

My Mother, The Hairdresser

When I was young, my mom worked at the K-mart salon, making a living giving perms to the elderly while they were shopping.  I would go to work with her, watching her flawless beauty as she mingled with clients.  She was elegant then, with long hair that reached the bottom of her shoulder blades in waves like the ocean cascading against the sand.

Her hair, dark and lovely, was unusually long.  On warm days, she would pull it back in a loose braid at the nape of her olive colored neck, keeping her bangs feathered and full of Aqua Net, a style she couldn’t quite let go of.  In the evenings, she would drag me, by the hand, over to the couch so I could brush her long locks as she watched television.  I would fill it with colorful barrettes, pretending I was the stylist and she was my client.  Of course I wanted to be just like her.

One summer day, her Irish temper ran to a boil and she impulsively chopped every bit of it off.  We both stood in the kitchen, a mane at our feet, and cried, mourning the change.

Eventually, and for reasons unbeknownst to me, she left that job at K-mart and started styling hair in our kitchen.  My mom would wash clients’ hair in the same porcelain sink that she cleaned our Tupperware, never once dropping the Virginia Slim hanging from her burgundy lips.  Gold bracelets rattled as she scrubbed, then rinsed the suds with the faucet. I watched her long fingers, painted brightly, as she permed, trimmed and shaved, always in aww of her artistic flare.

After many more years, one more child, and a nursing degree, my mom eventually stopped doing hair.  Though she loved hairdressing, she thought that nursing, and helping people, was her true calling.  And it was.  Her kind-hearted, selfless nature made her the perfect kind of nurse.  Unfortunately, not long after she started nursing, she also found out she had cancer.  By the time the doctor spotted it, in her routine colonoscopy, it had already metastasized, and overtaken her body, spreading from her colon to her liver and her lymph nodes.  Though she was against it, she started aggressive chemotherapy to salvage what she could of her body.  My mom was devastated because she could no longer practice nursing.

In the end, the chemotherapy only delayed the inevitable.

Four years later, on the day that she died, cancer and the poison of her drugs forced everything about her, including her hair, to change drastically.  It was no longer thick and flowing, but instead brittle and matted to her ashen skin.  Her eyes were closed tight, as she slept away the pain with a morphine drip.  I used her brush to gently untangle her thinning brown tufts and move them away from her eyes, though I don’t know if she could feel my presence.  I wanted so much to remember how it was to be on our couch as a child, filling her waves with colors of the rainbow, but the papery, unnatural feel of her hair was forbidding me.  Still, I let my fingers linger there, wishing for a different outcome.

Despite my mom being gone more than four years, I think of her often.  When I think of her, it’s sometimes as the hairdresser, or sometimes as the nurse, but always as the most beautiful woman; selfless, loving and easy to get along with.

And today, more than ever, I want to be just like her.

Nature’s Dance

Photo courtesy of Ryan Moreno

Nature dances its ballet.

Rolling mountains touch the sky,

In this place, my getaway.

 

Blades of green grass gently sway.

Pollen twirls from low to high.

Nature dances its ballet.

 

In the creek, the water plays.

Crickets sing a lullaby

In this place, my getaway.

 

Lightning bugs are on Broadway,

As the moon begins to fly.

Nature dances its ballet.

 

Deer gallop, then grand jeté,

As the sun begins to rise,

In this place, my getaway.

 

The dance, at dawn, breaks away,

And it’s time to say goodbye.

Nature dances its ballet.

In this place, my getaway.

Baby Steps

Arms outstretched; fists white-knuck-ling.

Small feet are stum-bling.

She wants to take steps today.

 

Hair disheveled; voice mum-bling.

Girl starts a’ tum-bling.

Falling down won’t ruin her day.

 

Getting up; she’s still stru-ggling,

Short legs are fum-bling.

Fixed to take first steps today.

 

Crackers out; tummy’s grum-bling.

Wood floor starts rum-bling.

Steps are coming straight this way.

 

She’s close; crackers crum-bling.

And Mom starts bum-bling.

Baby took first steps today!

 

Photo courtesy of Liane Metzler on Stocksnap.io

Su-Su-Summer Time

Yes!

It’s finally here and I couldn’t be happier: warm weather.  And with warm weather comes summer.  And with summer comes barbeques, short shorts, cold drinks, crystal clear pools, shady umbrellas, bottles upon bottles of sunblock, and laughter.

So.Much.Laughter.

I’ve always enjoyed the sticky days that summer is known for.  Growing up, I’d spend it laying out on my parent’s back deck, with my mom and sister, while listening to Kiss FM on my battery operated boom box.  The scorching deck would blister a bare foot, so we kept flip-flops at the ready; only going barefoot on the fiery wood as we danced our way from the rubbery fold-out chairs to the refreshing pool.  My mom would happily watch my sister and I as we splashed around in the pool, goofing off, making whirlpools, playing Marco-Polo and attempting underwater headstands. She only jumped in occasionally to cool off, and spent most of the day slathering on fresh coats of tanning lotion and relaxing as she glistened in the sun.

I can still smell her Hawaiian Tropic SPF 5, if I close my eyes.

It’s been four summers since she passed away, but I still remember every detail about those days.  She would lay there, smoking her cigarettes and painting her nails a bright shade of red.  She was a bronze goddess, effortlessly gorgeous with long dark hair, a thin curvy waist, and her favorite black bikini.

I wanted to be just like her.

And I tried to be.  I would soak up the sun’s hot rays after drenching my pale body in tanning lotion and saturating my hair with lemon-scented Sun-in.  But instead of being sun-kissed, I ended up with burnt, painful skin and orange hair, year after year.

I didn’t care, because I was happy.

During my twenties I rarely saw water during the summer, but instead I would spend warm days at baseball games with my husband, rooting for the Tigers.  We would sip frosty beers and munch on Hebrew National hotdogs as we baked, shoulder to shoulder, under the rays of the July sun.  The smell of buttery popcorn would fill our noses, making us crave the salty treat.  If the Tigers were away, we would day-drink limey vodka gimlets at outdoor bars with friends.  We’d laugh and talk as jazzy house music filled the air. We had no real responsibilities, no kids and no cares in the world.

Life was good.

Today, again, summers are different. Summer days are now spent chasing little ones at the wading pool with big beach hats and SPF 50. Or at the beach, sweaty and covered in sand. At home, we spend breezy afternoons on the swing, finding shapes in the clouds, coloring with sidewalk chalk on the blacktop, or sharing drippy popsicles that leave our fingers sweet and sticky.  My husband and I spend cool nights on the back deck with glasses of crisp white wine as we watch the fireflies blink, and hear the crickets sing.

These summer days are my favorite, so far.  They make me reflect on where I came from, what I’ve gone through and what kind of woman I have become. They make me appreciate the past, while staying present, and also looking forward to what the future may hold.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to go pour myself a glass of Pinot Grigio and listen to the crickets.

Summer is awesome.

Photo courtesy of  Ann Demianenko at Unsplash.

This week I revamped an old piece that you can find here.  Hope you like my changes!