Last Sunday was Mother’s Day. For me it was a solitary one, the first I’ve spent alone since becoming a mother in 1986.
My husband and younger daughter were off working at Camp Coleman in White County. My elder daughter lives in Washington, D.C., and wouldn’t be home for a visit until the end of the month.
In the past, Mother’s Day always started with the sound of furtive whispers and muffled cutlery in the kitchen as my girls prepared the traditional breakfast in bed. This Mother’s Day the only sounds came from petulant cats and a burbling coffee maker.
On Facebook, many people replace their own profile picture with one of their mother in honor of her special day. I chose one of my mom when she was a teenager. It was taken the day when 1940s Western actor George “Gabby” Hayes made an appearance at Gainesville’s Civic Center. For some reason he brought along a stuffed buffalo and, for a small fee, audience members could be photographed atop it. Therefore, I now possess a snapshot of my beautiful young mother happily waving a cowboy hat and wearing a fringed vest and chaps astride an enormous beast. Except for the hairstyle, it could just as easily be her granddaughter, Molly, in that picture.
This small digital act plunged me into a morass of sadness. Suddenly nothing in the world seemed fair. My friends were taking their elderly moms out to eat when mine had been dead more than half my lifetime. I missed my husband and children, and the only thing the day held for me was the prospect of work and then home again. Plus, I was nursing a broken toe so the pain was physical as well as emotional. There’s no mirror in the kitchen but I probably looked as pathetic as I felt.
No sadness is so severe that it can’t be soothed by coffee so I poured another cup. When I returned to my seat at the table, I caught a whiff of scent. I froze and raised my nose to the air like a doe on alert. There it was again, a mere hint of freshly-laundered linen with a touch of citrus and cinnamon.
I looked around. There was no open door, no automatic air freshener spritzing in the room. Nothing had changed since my trek to the coffeepot. Yet there was that somehow familiar scent.
I filled my lungs again, hoping to identify the aroma, but it was gone. I was about to file the experience away in the back of my mind when the realization came to me. Emeraude. The scent was Emeraude, the only cologne my mother ever wore.
If my life had a soundtrack, it would have been time to cue the music from “The Twilight Zone.” Was it a visit from my long-gone mother or just sense memory evoked by a daughter’s desperate yearning for comfort?
Whatever the cause, it worked.
My day improved. Both daughters phoned home. Their gifts were exactly what I wanted. They each made $50 donations in my name to a maternity hospital in Somaliland, ensuring safe deliveries for two women in that struggling East African country.
My younger daughter made a surprise appearance at my shop in the late afternoon and then rushed home ahead of me to start dinner. My husband came in bearing a state-of-the-art coffee maker. The day that started in sadness ended with laughter and cheesecake.
My yearning for my mother made me realize she’s not really gone. I see her in my Molly’s delicate features and porcelain skin. She’s there in my girls, in their servants’ hearts and each act of loving kindness. Her auburn hair makes an appearance every summer after they’ve been in the sun a few times. I hear her voice when Rachel says, “I’m going to Kyle’s house for lunch. What should I bake to take?” Because Lee Hamrick would have never gone for a visit empty-handed.
I echo her admonitions about driving in the rain and wearing all black (“At least add pearls or a scarf, honey. You’re not going to a funeral, you know.”). I see her hands emerging from my sleeves, veiny and just starting to show a couple of brown spots. She called them “senile freckles.” Now I do, too.
We carry our mothers along with us on this parenthood journey. Our children will someday carry us. Now the soundtrack cue is for “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King.”
I wonder if Coty still makes Emeraude?
Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears biweekly on Fridays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.