My mother always had a inappropriate way about her. To this day I can still see something like a wild, passionate teenager in her that wouldn’t look out of place at a beer-bong party or tearing off her top in a wet T-shirt contest. I also know that she would laugh if I told her this, because that’s what she does whenever she’s ashamed. She laughs too loud, though you can see the discomfort in her eyes.
Because she doesn’t like herself. I don’t know if she ever has. She holds herself with a boisterous confidence, heels on the dashboard, singing at the top of her lungs, but always she’s ashamed, because she has a conservative desire. While her soul whoops and runs bare foot through the copper desert of the old Native Americans, her heart calls her home to a chapel, where she dresses head to toe in pure white and prays to a God she loves and knows is there. She wants to stay home, chase after babies, love one man, and she does so happily, and yet that untamed spirit of hers dreams of mountains, blazing sun, and a sort of romantic abandon.
I think it’s because of this that she jumps in and out of jobs every few months. Ever since I was little she was always running, moving from place to place, jumping from city to city, state to state, struggling for the balance between the want to bow her head in quiet prayer, but a need to scream and make love.
My mother is beautiful. She doubts it every minute, but knows it deep down, for everyone sees it. She’s vivacious like any heroine and earnest as any one can be with a heart as wide as hers. She wants so badly. So very badly. But can’t seem to overcome the strange innate need born in her spirit to run so far away that no pain can ever reach her, and where the Indians she loves so much wait for her on painted mustangs.
I still see her that way: wild, out in the sagebrush, whooping and hollering for mother earth and every other pagan god to hear, her hair out free, her hazel eyes bright, bejeweled in turquoise and silver and wood. She’s limber too, slim, and as beautiful as a fire on a desert night.
But today she is overweight, depressed, and fighting to make happiness out of an abusive marriage. She keeps pictures of that Indian desert she dreams of around her, but when she looks in the mirror I’m afraid she only sees someone worthless, fat, sinful, and full of mistakes. I’m afraid that her conservative heart struggles to remember a loving God who accepts all her sins upon himself, but her wild spirit is too injured to care. Maybe it’s like a drug, now, her passion, holding her in place and never satisfied. She’s still so young, but she only sees years and wrinkles in the mirror.
She’s still singing. Still dreaming. Still hoping that her husband will one day turn around and love her, only her, and treat her with so much tenderness she would know she was dreaming. Still hoping that somewhere, somehow, the God she tries so hard to reach will reach back and take her home to heaven.
So, last weekend, when I gave my goodbyes to my mom, my baby on one hip, my husband cooling off the car behind me, and listened to her telling me that it was just ‘one of those days when she’s just depressed,’ it just wouldn’t stick. I could still remember the fiery woman from my childhood. I could still remember the thin slip of a woman pointing up a mountain and telling me to run as fast as I can, to sing loud Moulin Rouge songs that would make any decent priest cringe, to roast the marshmallows over a desert fire just right so that the golden brown made the melted insides heaven. I could still remember a time when she had been happy.
“Yes, mom, but does it make you sad? Is what he’s doing make you feel like crying?” Because I have to be blunt now. She’s so good with giving me reasons.
Her eyes filled with tears. She told me good-bye, that she loved me, that she loved him enough to figure out his problems, then hid behind her door.
Oh, Mom. I know you know what I think of him. But I don’t think you know what I think of you. And even though I write you song after song and letters and say it to your face, staring you right in the eye even though it makes you uncomfortable, I don’t think you believe me. I don’t think you see the woman I know you are: happy, vibrant, talented, passionate, rebellious, loud, hysterically inappropriate, beautiful, good, faithful, strong, loving, and ecstatic to have red sand stone beneath your feet and blue sky in your fingers.
I don’t think you see my Mom.