Here are three exposures of a small quilt pinned to a curtain covering an eastern window. Early morning light. Not summer sun, but not winter sun either. Opening the aperture gives the impression that the color is fading into white*. But it’s more than that. Back lighting the piece lets what resides in back to shine through. I like both these ideas — fading into white and the hidden-coming-forward.
What is happening when ‘what is behind’ shows up? Could it parallel the Jungian process of owning the shadow? Claiming a long-fended-off weakness or strength? Could it be a metaphor for hearing from ‘the other side’?
I ask the otherworldly question because of that wool challis. Well, that and because of need. Sometimes in life, we just need our mothers. It’s so simple a thing. And so complicated. And it’s true whether she’s around or not.
That maroon floral challis comes from a scarf which in its original, drapey, and fringed incarnation, belonged to my mother. I wore it for a while after she died. It was moth eaten on the edges and eventually I felted it and let it take its lovely place in my scrap bin. Clearly, it means something more than ‘fuzzy’ and ‘maroon’ to me. Placing a moon of my mother’s fiber above what to me is a mysterious door is no accident. I have been thinking about her a lot lately.
Years ago when I showed my mother this tiny Gap vest (below), purchased while D. was in utero (middle boy in photo), she said, “Oh! You’ve found his palette.” That was signature Mom — pointing out the centrality of color to life and perhaps specifically to Mallon-life; assuming we all have palettes; recognizing that a mother might intuit her child’s colorways, even before he was born. It was one of many moments in her last weeks that juxtaposed new life with dying in an excruciating way.
I’d give almost anything to hear one of her honest and shrewd observations right now – no matter how brutal. She had a knack for that. Making pithy observations that knocked you over. In the moment, I might hate her… insist she was wrong… loudly argue back or scoff at her sources. But many times out of ten (I refuse to quantify), I’d have to at some later point admit that she was right — even when the source was Cosmopolitan Magazine (Damn You, Mom!!).
Sometimes the judgment was something I could run with. It all depended.
So, yeah (as my nineteen year old might say), I have been wishing for my mother’s ‘take’ on things — specifically, on this messy business of parenting teenagers. Once we got over what would undoubtedly be her smug satisfaction at my getting a little of what I dished out, I’m sure she’d have valuable and specific insights to offer. She’d say things I haven’t thought of yet. She’d offer reality-based optimism that would make me feel better and would make me feel better about my kids and their futures. She’d call me a worry wart and laugh. Pearls of wisdom would be dispensed like sticks of gum (no big deal). She’d casually address every single thing that is ‘up’ right now — resilience (or its absence), stubbornness, fear, and the unpredictable paths of talent — without having to ask a single question.
February 13th marked the 17th anniversary of my mother’s death. I only know the number of years off the top of my head because she died five weeks before D. was born. Right now, I always know how old my boys are. Seventeen. Nineteen. I suppose that could change, like everything else does. I hope not for a long time, though.
This hung on the west window of my bedroom last week. Here, red threads were stitched in prayer (as has been talked about here and there on blogs that matter to me (links later)). This thread was dyed in India, purchased in Colorado about this time last year, and stitched onto white, then covered with a grey/white silk. You don’t really see the red lines when the cloth comes off the curtain. They’re still there, of course.
That says something on this topic of mothering, doesn’t it? Something about the strands of love that connect us, whether we see them or not, whether they’re live or remembered. These red threads could also represent the strands of genetic code that determine, in part, who we are… representing that strange, perplexing and miraculous way that some aspects of person get tugged through the generations… binding one group to the next (and the next) whether willing or aware, or not.
And then again, it is a series of red threads.
* Like yesterday’s post, “Meditation on White”, I am inspired here in large measure by the online class over at Spirit Cloth
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