‘Jane’s smell – that is, her lilac perfume – hits me when I open the door to her boudoir. I can’t smell lilacs without Jane coming to mind. Inside, the racks of dresses, the row of shoes, the boxes of hats, the drawers filled with corsets and such, all Jane’s. The stenciled wallpaper is Jane’s and so are the hatpin cushion and ring stand and the pale yellow hairs entwined in the bristles of her sterling silver brush. Seeing Jane’s hair makes me feel like an intruder. I shouldn’t be here – so I’ll hurry.
So many dresses – delicate silks, soft cashmeres, fragile laces – and then, here it is, the black dress. I peel off my stained gingham. Standing in Jane’s room wearing nothing but my underthings feels downright indecent, and I quickly slip her dress over my head.
It fits, meaning I’m now the size of the woman who sent me away when I was a little girl. It’s like she’s doing me a favor from beyond the grave, and the last thing I want is to feel beholden to her, but I don’t have much choice and the dress is well-tailored, unlike anything I’ve ever worn, with a lining and tucks and pleats, darts and padding.
Hooking it closed, I study myself in the full-length mirror. I am not what you would call a raving beauty. Not by a long shot. I have the Duke’s hazel eyes and rust-colored hair, but my mama’s wide jaw and sharp chin. Mama. This used to be her room. Come to think of it, there might be some trace of her still here, and so despite my promise to leave quickly – can’t seem to help myself – I start rifling through drawers and boxes and then open the rosewood jewelry box on the vanity and dig through the thickly jeweled chokers and bracelets and brooches collected by three generations of Kincaid women. Finally, on the very bottom, I find it. The necklace the Duke gave Mama. It is simple and graceful, with three glowing moonstones that hang from a silver chain like raindrops. Jane must not have known it was Mama’s. I put it on. Does it make me look at all like Mama? Wearing it downstairs is out of the question, so I take it off and put it back in the jewelry box. That feels wrong too, and I slip it into a pocket in Jane’s dress. I am not a thief, but I have no problem taking what is mine. And the way I see it, Mama’s necklace belongs to me. ‘
Happy Mother’s Day!
Aren’t relationships complicated? Here are some thoughts I had in 2017 on Mother’s Day:
We all have a mom. You may know her well, or not at all. She may still be on this earth, or perhaps in-between as she struggles with dementia or another illness or troubles, or she has passed on to the next. Regardless, in spite of (or perhaps because of) her strengths and failings, we are each here today with one (or more) moms behind us. Thanks, mom, for that very first gift of life.
Thoughts? Feel free to share them here.
Dedicated with love to Heather Cunningham.