I fought for awhile while making this, trying to decide if it’s something I wanted to share. I gave in basically because well, writing helps, and I don’t know. I feel like my mom wouldn’t have minded, so why should I? I made it. Though, I made it for us. As such I don’t care if anyone even reads this. I know what these things mean, and I’m sure if she saw this…she’d know too.
I cried a lot while painting this. Every single item on it has one or more vivid, distinct memories of her. And they were good memories too. Evidence that not only did we have our happy times, but she’s also influenced my life and personality in positive ways that I couldn’t admit to until it was far too late.
I used to have inward freakouts because her birthday was coming up and I would feel obligated to call her and say hello. For the first time this year, she won’t be here to call. It’s still shocking, and it hurts, and I hate it. I wrote on Facebook but I’ll say again here; this is the very first time in my life I wish that I wasn’t an atheist. I would give anything to talk to her, or just even know that she is listening.
Anyway, her painting…and its explanation.
1. The Gemstone: My mom, along with being a pretty witchy/superstitious person, was enamored with jewels and gemstones. Aquamarine is hers, and I faintly remember she had an emerald-cut ring she wore sometimes. Since it’s her birthday picture after all, it made sense. She passed on her love for rocks to me. I’m still an absolute rock/gem/jewelry nerd.
2. Charlie Chaplin: I know he seems like a strange face to see for something made for my mom, but I always think of my mom when I see him. She introduced me to silent movies, and he was our mutual favorite. My mom has a huge love of all things Victorian and antique. Charlie Chaplin stands for a lot of things that my mom (and now I) agree with and appreciate: life is funny, life is sad, there’s beauty in simple things, and money means very little. I did my mom’s Halloween makeup when she dressed up as him one year, and then in later years I dressed up as him as well. We didn’t bond over much, but I see him as our mother-daughter mascot.
3. The Brick Wall: My mother introduced me to Pink Floyd and it was one of the most common things we ever talked about, actually. She told me of the ridiculously fantastic concerts she went to, her favorite being the Wall, and subsequently gave me the Wall songbook with all the chords/music/lyrics. What surprises me and makes me feel a weird mix of happy/sad is that she and I interpreted all the songs the same way. Pink Floyd has some dark music, I don’t have to tell you. My mom never put out the dark, contemplative, brooding persona that I always have, but…apparently it was there. She would always explain things to me that I didn’t understand (my favorite being a lyric that used the word ‘defecate’.)
4. The Blue Heart: My mother’s first and only tattoo, gotten when she was fourteen, and from what she told me, drunk. She went through a phase where she wanted it covered, and had me draw a lot of other things on top of it. I doodled on her shoulder for weeks.
5. The Castle: This castle is Burg Berwartstein, which is a German castle in close vicinity to where Mom lived. Above all else, even her Pink Floyd concert stories, I was an addict for her German stories. Life in Germany, the German language, German food. She used to make me German dishes whenever I asked. She let me hold her beer stein with an engraving of this castle on it, and I know pretty much the inner layout, just from her stories about visiting it. Including the caverns under it where young people used to go to party. And the secret cave leading to France.
My mother was a huge influence on my desire to travel. I knew just from the wistful way she spoke of Europe that it was where I needed to go. Not just for hereditary reasons. I knew I didn’t belong in Farner. She never discouraged that notion, either. And I can say a lot of things about my mom, but she was brave as all hell, hopping around from continent to continent and state to state with two young children at such a young age.
The castle also symbolizes the more eccentric traits we shared; our love of fairy tales, lore, witchcraft, creepy stuff. We’re probably descendants of the creepiest witches to ever exist.
6. MacMurphy. The guy in the straitjacket is an important piece…my mom never let me read the book One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, despite reading it herself whenever she had a chance. Over and over. Finally, when I was about thirteen, she relented, and I ate that book up. To this day it’s one of my favorites. Seriously, read it. At first I was shocked she hadn’t let me read it before, because I mean, I’d already seen all that the adult world had to offer thanks to lots of soap operas and late-night TV, but I think she didn’t want me to read it for the psychological effect, not the sex and death scenes. It’s yet another example of something darker, more sinister, that we bonded over. Most people don’t know that philosophical, contemplative side of my Mom. It was probably my favorite part.
7. The Piano. Obviously, she taught me to play. My mother does not come from a poor, buck-toothed hillbilly background. Her family was quite well-off. She got piano lessons, for years as far as I know. She resented me for picking up piano fast, and for having long skinny fingers (hers were pretty short and stubby, which I teased her for.) But I remember not learning fast enough for my own liking and getting pissed about it. She just smiled and kept playing, kept me interested.
One night, my dad was in Kentucky and my sister hadn’t been born yet, so it was just me and mom. She decided to learn a new song and I got to sit and watch her feel out the chords by ear, writing down notes as she went, singing the same verse over and over to get it right. I had such an amazing night, just watching my mom enjoy working out something for herself. It’s one of few times I saw her and wanted to be like her. She had a talent, she was improving it, she was doing something beautiful. I wish we could have had more of those nights.
1. The Wisteria (the grape looking purple things) My mom absolutely adored these. We found some growing in our forest and she was tickled. I really liked them as well as a kid (and still do.)
2. The Tea Rose (the pink flower) Probably my favorite smell on earth, and one of my mom’s. My dad’s mother had a few bushes of these, and my dad picked a rose for my mom a lot of mornings when I was a child. He also picked a rose and brought it to the hospital for her when she gave birth to me, and to Ariel as well. So naturally when I see them I think of our family.
3. The Rose of Sharon (the purple flower) My mom loved these and had five or six of them planted around our yard. The thing about my mom is that she was an avid gardener (and one of the best.) Rose of Sharon was her go-to ‘flowering tree’. I remember being scared to go around them in spring because bumblebees adore them.
4. Lilies of the Valley (small white flowers at the bottom) Another flower we found in our forest and she was excited. Apparently in that area it’s pretty rare and indeed, I’ve never even seen it again. Like all the others except the purple one, this flower smells heavenly.
5. Tiger Lily (orange/yellow/fuchsia flower) This was basically a weed to me, growing up. It didn’t smell and it wasn’t one of the colors I particularly liked. I thought it looked kind of out of place and jungle-y. But my mom loved it enough to plant it everywhere. She loved lilies of all colors.