©Mary Lee Hahn, 2023
Diminishing verse: blender -- lender -- ender.
Portrait of My Mother With the Letter S
Seamstress is the first word that comes to mind. She sewed so many clothes: Easter dresses, guitar recital outfits, twirling competition costumes, matching Western shirts for Dad and David for the fair, doll clothes. All of this on a Singer Featherweight.
She was no chef, though she was a foodie through and through. I remember the smell of scorched lima beans, and the macadamia nuts she secreted away on a top shelf. For a treat, we had broiled spare ribs. I know now that “spare” is the word for “this is a treat even though there’s hardly any meat on the bone.”
She was a saver. A collector. Almost a hoarder. Miniatures, Hallmark house ornaments, glass boxes. And scissors. If I could turn back time, I would ask her – why so many pairs of scissors? Shears (sewing and pinking), embroidery, children’s, vintage, modern plastic-handled Fiskars, and so many manicure scissors.
She was a reader. Mostly mysteries, she bought books at the library sale by the sackful. A secret code in the back cover let her know if she’d already read the book and donated it back to the library.
She gave up salt when she was pregnant with me. I don’t think I can fully appreciate this sacrifice.
She bought me private swimming lessons when I was four because I wasn’t old enough for Red Cross lessons, but I was ready to swim.
She bought me private sewing lessons so we wouldn’t squabble (she the perfectionist, me the good-enough-ionist).
I don’t remember being swatted or spanked, but there was one memorable slap when I disobeyed and walked home from school in my good shoes and was sassy about what the big deal could possibly have been.
One winter, she drove with me out into the country to escape the lights of town so we could see the Ursid meteor shower. We lay on a blanket on the hood of the ‘60 Ford Falcon and watched shooting stars as the car’s engine warmed us, then cooled off until we had seen enough and were shivering.
By the end of her life, her body was covered in scars: hysterectomy, knee/hip/shoulder replacements, double mastectomy. Her soul was scarred by a hateful father and the early loss of her mother. She had a high pain threshold for all the kinds of pain she carried. She wanted for us the childhood she never had, failing to see us as individuals who needed our own childhoods, not hers.
I remember her standing at the kitchen sink, admiring the sunset, often calling me to come and see.
©Mary Lee Hahn, 2023
After the poem Portrait of My Father With the Letter V