Monday, November 16, 2009

Simplicity: It was never simple. A series of portraits of my mother in honor of her upcoming birthday


I’m in my grandmother’s kitchen. She’s at the window, her hands clasped behind her back, the floral apron. Her hair the color of steel wool softly curls around her face. Seconds later, a car pulls up the driveway. Its my mother. I look out the window and watch her. She’s wearing blue jeans, an oatmeal colored sweater, flats, white hoop earrings and pink lipstick. She’s blond, eternally blond and by the way she walks, you can tell she loves to dance.

She enters through the side door that leads into the kitchen. She kisses me, and lights up a cigarette while her mother fixes her a cup of coffee from the tin pot on the white stove. The light pours into the window. Grandmother gets out the black cast iron skillet, and pancake batter hits the hot greased surface. I set the table, while my mother retrieves the syrup, butter and sour cream. Finally we all sit. The dishes are green and white. The napkins are white. 

This is not one moment, but many, many moments strung together until they form a much larger picture. Until it stretches beyond moments and becomes days, then weeks, then months. And now years. Always the conversation about the other Polish ladies. Always the gossip about the other family members. No one ever speaks about the village that was burned, the forced labor. But it is there. My grandmother worries about my mother, and the anxiety is palpable.

My mother passes this anxiety along to me--- the message: the world is a dangerous place. But if the pancakes are hot, then the coffee is good. And so is life. If you stay for lunch there’s ham and potato salad. And if you stay for dinner there’s meatloaf, mashed potatoes and whiskey.

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