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My Mother

It was five o’clock in the morning and I was—like the 1986 Bangles tune, Magic Monday (see link below) says—“just in the middle of a dream”, when four-year-old Lizzie began to shake me with some urgency.

“Mommy, wake up! I’ve just wet the bed!”

It was a rude awakening. I was still “kissing Valentino by a crystal blue Italian stream” and feeling about twenty-five years short of middle age. (And—for all of those enquiring minds—Valentino’s visage was, of course, an exact replication of Frank’s in every detail.)

Lizzie was standing beside the bed and eye-level with me in the dim haze of the nightlight emanating from the bedroom wall near the floor.

I was experiencing a faint, creeping realization that all was not as it should be. The night light pervaded the room with an essence of “alien” green, the signature ambience of a scene in a Stephen King novel when the stage is set for some unspeakable horror wrung from the depths of a Jungian pit of  consciousness steeped in human fear.

I lifted my head from the pillow and reassured her.

“It’s alright, my darling. We’ll change and get you back into bed.”

“But you can’t” said the nearly three-and-a-half foot alien, her chin over the edge of the bed.

Then the soundtrack for Jaws (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=ZvCI-gNK_y4)—just before the shark rises up from the water to abscond with a chunk of flesh from an unsuspecting fisherman who happens to be dangling his leg over the hull like a brightly colored lure—begins to play, somewhere in the back of my mind.

“Oh?” I replied sleepily. “Why is that?”

The little alien began to exude some signs of impatience, clearly a consequence of psychological trauma induced by her unexpected urological mishap.

“Because I didn’t pee in my bed” she uttered indignantly, beginning to shake with cold from her wet pajamas. “I peed in your bed!”

And then I remembered. Lizzie had a habit of waking up and crawling into our bed in the depth of night, like a toddling sleep ninja. She had obviously now escaped the scene of the crime and left me to my face my harrowing bed-sodden fate alone.

Gingerly, I reached behind me and felt the mattress. There I found “the patch”. It was icy, wet and acidic—and spreading like an arctic melt in Springtime.

Vaguely, in the far recesses of my mind, the pseudo-scientific query of “why is urine always colder than other liquids after leaving the body to congeal?” was posited (and not replied to).

Valentino finally slipped away and, (sadly) in his place, a vision of me stripping the bed, opening the windows, and loading the washing machine to the tune of “Whistle While You Work” (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=oY3aljAO7qU) replaced him.

It was a day of irony, with a beginning that smacked of nostalgia—combined with hard labor in the domestic salt mines—even before my eyelids had fluttered fully open with all of the playful exuberance of Snow White’s house-cleaning hummingbirds.

After we had eaten, dressed and driven Alex to school, I returned home with Lizzie to discover that an army of ants had formed a column, broken through into the kitchen, and infested the pantry.

Ours is a country manor. Our ongoing battle with the ants was legendary. Theirs was an indefatigable army of infinite resources and a task force in which genetic programming had made boot camp and tactical training redundant. As a well-oiled colony of invaders, they were formidable.

They had infiltrated our food stores by the thousands, on a grand scale—from pancake mix to raisin boxes, nothing had escaped (unless it was in a can or stored a freezer bag) because the ants could shape-shift and slither into any opening, no matter how minute.

After clearing out and spraying the geometric lines of the pantry, along with the perimeter of the kitchen and its windows, I must line the shelves again with fresh paper.

It was going to be the work of a morning. I rolled up my sleeves with a “Heigh-ho, it’s off to work I go”. (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=aURThUaRjCc&NR=1) (And the dusky-eyed Valentino now consigned to the sepia-toned films of memory from a lost lifetime.)

I was working steadily, peeling the backing from each carefully measured and cut sheet of shelving as Lizzie danced around me, with “Pinkie” the bean-stuffed Lizard in one hand and “Pillowy” her larger sister in the other, weaving her magic story monologue.

That was when it happened.

I was suddenly shoved down a wormhole of time as a distant memory thrust into me like a bittersweet knife. It was a surprise exposure of all of my senses to the full assault of a living moment more real than the here and now, yet infused with the powdered dust of bones long dead, all driven together in one cut to the heart.

Like Scrooge as he is presented with the once-beloved ghosts of Christmas Past, I relived that moment in time:

My mother, gone now for nearly twenty-five years, is with me. She is cutting the flowered paper to line the shelves of the linen cupboard in our old house on Elm Street, hefting old heavy sewing scissors in one hand.

I am only four and aware that my brothers and sisters are all at elementary school. It is 1965.

I can smell a hint of the rose eau de toilette she has rubbed on her wrists, as she stoops over the kitchen table, wearing a starched white cotton shirt, paisley Capri pants and her hair up in a French roll neatly packed in place with metal “bobby pins”.

Now I can see, she is the lady on the Betty Crocker box.

We are alone together. I am dancing around her, happy, in the sunshine of her presence, just to be doing anything at all. Just being. With her.

Now I know–she was once the centre of my universe. Pure and simple. It was an era before I understood the meaning of pain, disappointment or the permanent state of bewilderment we learn to live with as adults.

I remember her joy of being industrious, of doing things. I remember how she smelled, on the nape of her neck, when she hugged me close on the impulse of a happy thought.

I remember how at peace we were—though the world may storm around us, we were unaware of it. Instead, we lived in our cloistered, harmonious world.

I remember the preparation of the gentle mixture of vinegar and water for cleaning the mirrors—the stock and trade of all 1950s and 60s housewives; or peering over the perfectly burnt brown peaks of a hot lemon meringue pie, freshly yanked from the oven with pride; or the weak resistance of my limbs as I was tucked between sheets, still crisp from drying on the clothesline in Spring, for an afternoon nap.

Those were the moments we stole from the rest of the world.

With these new eyes, I turned and gazed at my Lizzie as the roll of shelf paper slipped from my hands. I reached out to grasp her tightly to me—to soak up the fresh smell of her hair and skin and feel her apple-cheek pressed against mine—and  by force of will and all of the love in me, try to make the moment last forever.

But this, too, was destined to be bittersweet: I realized that, from my mother, to me and to her, forever was never going to be quite long enough to perfectly capture this one moment in time.

Note to readers: Click here for more Blast From The Past (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/#pages/blast NULL.html) memories.

Ref: 1986 Bangles (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/B000WZAD00?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000WZAD00%22%3eDifferent%20Light%3c/a%3e%3cimg%20src=%22http://www NULL.assoc-amazon NULL.com/e/ir?t=flopowmom-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B000WZAD00) tune, Magic Monday (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=bZVkNSn856Y)

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