Monday, December 29, 2008

My Mother's Chains are Broken

My mother's chains are broken.

My sister and I are going through her jewelry drawer. When we were children, it was just a jewelry box, but now it's a drawer full of boxes full of her colors, bright and deep, full of pendants, strings of pearls, necklaces, broaches and bracelets. Every time we find one that might match her outfit, the chain is broken. Why hasn’t she had them fixed?

It’s my sister’s idea for my mother to wear the outfit from her 50th wedding anniversary. We find the dress and then the slippers. But the necklace…

My sister untangles one. Beads fall and scatter:

Like the friends of her child-rearing years, Ruth next door then, raising 5 weird and funny kids of her own and sharing in her daily fun and fears. Off to California. Pauline, whose powerful mind turned on her. Maggie still carrying on in their college town Providence. And Mel, arm in arm with her through the years from college to the kids’ growing up, but not willing to go with her into piety and ecstasy.

Like the friends of her holiest days, Mona, Judy, and Mary Frances, retired to distant states, or sublimed to the final state.

Like her father, Norman Frederick, who taught her to sing their songs back to the birds, and to raise a barn in a field of canvas. His energies enfeebled slowly, were regulated by battery for a time, and finally went to ground.

Like her granddaughter Caity, shoved into a Florida jail cell. No phone calls go in, letters are returned. It goes on like that for many months. A package comes back unopened.

Like her husband Tom, her tall-dark-handsome. He stutters into speech, but the balloons of his thoughts and memories slip from his grasp. They go floating away into the brilliant sky. He watches them go with an uneasy shrug.

Like her direct line to god, which she wielded like a brickbat, a trumpet, a lasso, a healing balm. When her friend Jesus betrayed her, the line frayed like old black fabric-insulated cable, and she bit it through, tore it apart, ground it under her heel.

All my mother’s chains are broken. We braid a garland of flowers for her hair, even though the casket will be closed.