FROM MY TROPICAL DECK CHAIR
I wonder if my mother wanted the same thing I grew up to want, a quiet place of my own. Books, paints and travel. I know she loved armchair travel as much as I do. Shelves and shelves of books were our company. So I have reading to thank my mother for. She was a painter, an aspiring painter, a hobby painter, and finally, a painter whose oils lay dry and twisted in their old Grumbacher tubes, her paint box in the cupboard, never to be used again after she became an antique dealer and estate appraiser.
Her color sense was remarkable. As a child, I disliked our chartreuse dining room with pink trim. I abhorred the huge antique sideboard and China hutch full of pink and green Spode. She had the sideboard and hutch painted pink and green to match the room, match the dishes. The formal living room was a soft chocolate brown with turquoise trim. The bookshelves were turquoise, the couch was turquoise, a nubby weave that dug into the back of your legs if you sat in the forbidden room. It is a wonder she did not have the piano also painted to match.
The other day, I did a little writing exercise with Judith, my writing partner, a five minute write about the closet of my mother. The rules for topic writes, Natale Goldberg method, is write as fast as you can, no stopping, no going back, no crossing out, no thinking. I have been kind of mad and sad about my mother forever, but especially since she totally stopped talking to me when I decided to early retire in Mexico. So this write brought up a love that was buried so deep inside me I could not access it. Well, I could not access the love I have for my mother easily. It sat outside my conscious awareness.
So here is the write. I fall into her closet like Alice down the rabbit hole. She has tall black velvet heels with rhinestone clips on the tops. She has a silk shantung black dress that she had made by her dressmaker. She has a pheasant feather hat that is made of felt, and pheasant feathers from pheasants that daddy shot on his Sunday forays into distant farmer cornfields, followed by long hours with his hunting buddies at the Nine Thirty Club. She has a gold ballgown in a big shiny pink box. The gown is nestled in layers and layers and layers of white tissue paper. She bought it at Marshall Fields in Chicago, to wear when she meets Queen Juliana of the Netherlands. She will never wear the dress. Thirty years from now, however, he will have a boyfriend named Earl, who grows tulips from the Netherlands commercially. Earl wears brown wingtip shoes.
And so, this is how I reconnect with my mother, my love for my mother. Maybe I can stop feeling squirmy on Mothers’ Day. Maybe I will send another card to follow the others that she never answers. Maybe this Mothers’ Day I will get lucky, and hear from her.
But you know, I hear from her when I look at my bright wild fauvist yellow wallpaper paintings. I hear from her inside my head when I explore a new place. When I lived in New Mexico, I wished she would come see it. Taos and Santa Fe are both towns where the houses and buildings are a soft chocolate brown, with turquoise trim. The yellow and turquoise color combination of my childhood bedroom finds itself into almost every painting I do. And when I spend a whole afternoon reading, gazing out at my tiny secret garden, enclosed by high white walls, I think of my mother. If it were not for her courage and her faith in God, her curiosity about far flung places all over the globe that she never got to see, but I did, I am, I would not have had the wonderful life that I enjoy today.
Love is everything. Think nice thoughts. website: santafekitchenstudio.com blog: http://outofthearmchair.wordpress.com paintings can be seen in Puerto Vallarta at Galeria International on Morelos and in the Marina.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com