In the attics of my life, full of cloudy dreams unreal.
Full of tastes no tongue can know, and lights no eyes can see.
When there was no ear to hear, you sang to me.
I have spent my life seeking all that's still unsung.
Bent my ear to hear the tune, and closed my eyes to see.
When there was no strings to play, you played to me.
In the book of love's own dream, where all the print is blood.
Where all the pages are my days, and all the lights grow old.
When I had no wings to fly, you flew to me, you flew to me.
In the secret space of dreams, where I dreaming lay amazed.
When the secrets all are told, and the petals all unfold.
When there was no dream of mine, you dreamed of me.
As you know, my stories are written from personal experience. They strangely brew from a silly occurrence in my life, they reach an apex, I have some sort of epiphany, and I spew it out to you in the belief that we all share experiences and that maybe unfolding the origami of myself to you will, in some way, help you all in your troubled times, or at the very least give you a good laugh from mine.
This story, however, has no beginning. This story has no end. There is no denouement. This story is about my mother, and it is a living, breathing organism of fire and warmth and growth and soothing spring rains and love and the smell of Rose Milk Lotion.
Quite some time ago my friend, Michele, asked me why I hadn’t written about my mother. I told her that I had indeed written about mothers. She said “Yes, I know. I’m talking about your mother . . . your experience.” I believe I went breathless for a second, possibly even a slightly audible gasp before I regained inner composure. Why? Why indeed? Why had I not written about my mother? Because it’s hard. Because it’s not static. Because there is no end. How can I ever say enough? The story is never over. Even in the forty years since she transcended from this life to the next, my story with my mother grows. Every minute that I and my four siblings are alive, she is alive. She created us and in turn, what we create is of her. My great nieces will never know their great grandmother, but she lives in them.
I’ll tell you my story. My mother was not an especially great cook. But I wonder, could she have been? Would she have been someday? Her goal in cooking was to feed five children, a husband, and herself on a meager household budget. Getting fancy and experimental was not something to be embraced in the Texas and Louisiana of my youth. She made this horrible, horrible concoction, Tater Tot Casserole. Awful, just awful. Lord God I hated Tater Tot Casserole night. We had hamburgers, we had black eyed peas with corn bread, we had spaghetti and that spaghetti was festooned with fake parmesan flakes from a green can. Bleck. But I imagine trying to get seven people, five of them under the age of 15, to all eat the same thing without complaining was a bit of a culinary challenge. Did she yearn to try something different? I’ll never know. Did she even know there was the possibility of anything different? I don’t know. My mother was married when she was 18. She never rode in a plane. I imagine the list of things she never did is much longer than the list of things she did do; but not to me. She may never have flown, or eaten oysters on the half shell in a chic restaurant, or worn a scandalous and decidedly expensive dress and shoes and matching handbag in a deep shade of bordeaux, but I’ll tell you what she did do . . .
She hugged me every day of my life. She told me she loved me every day of my life. She ensured that I was able to read before starting school. She instilled the love of reading and learning in a small tribe of five kids. She tried to expand our youthful minds with trips to the library, by volunteering at the museum, by taking us to plays and taking my sister and I to see the ballet. Do you know what the ballet is like in Midland, Texas in the 1960’s? Not what my little girl mind had dreamed at all. Nowhere near as pink and frilly as I had wanted, but we went.
Every year my sister and I got new Easter dresses and shoes. We wore the same gloves every year and we had the same Easter Sunday purses and hats, but new dresses and shoes were de rigueur. Some things, like college and Easter dresses, are budgeted; maybe back off the tater tots for a week to be sure the shoes were also purchased. The dresses were white, duh, and the shoes were white patent, always. White patent, no options, because they were to serve as our GOOD SUNDAY SHOES all summer. Not navy, not yellow, and dear Lord, clutch the pearls, never red. These shoes had to be worn every Sunday, they had to match all the summer dresses we had, which may have amounted to about five for each of us. The Rockefellers we were not. One year, as this particular rite of spring was being practiced, I spotted pink shoes. I had to have them. I begged. I pleaded, I pouted, I cried. None of you is surprised by this, I’m sure. I’ll still employ such tactics if necessary. Pink shoes were at stake people, you can see my cause was just. And lo, as I was beginning to fear my arsenal was empty and I was going to have to go home with white shoes, the clouds parted. I don’t know what happened, I don’t know if my petulance paid off or my final laying down of arms and acceptance of white shoes was just too pathetic, or if my mothers enormous and girlish heart finally won out, but she let me have the pink shoes. I’ll never forget them, as long as I live. I wore them home from the store. I wore them all afternoon at home, I ran to meet daddy in them when he came home from work and leapt up in his arms to show him my beautiful new pink shoes. What could make a little girl happier? What could make a grown woman happier? How did she feel in that moment? I’ll never know. I should let you know here that I tried that whole “throwing a shoe fit” thing again when I wanted red boots, it did NOT work a second time. I got white boots that day. I have red boots now and will never be without red boots in my closet until the day I move from this life to the next.
My mother didn’t go to college. My mother didn’t have a job outside the home. My mother was the Queen of Webster Parish and I believe that may have been her 15 minutes of fame. My mother cooked and cleaned and did laundry and sewed and baked birthday cakes and made sure we went to Sunday school and volunteered at our schools and tried to keep a nice figure and wore house dresses and rose early every day to get breakfast on the table and look pretty at said table. She mended our wounds with band aids and hugs, she cut peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in half, she made pancakes shaped like kittens. My mother was not an exotic woman, but my mother was beautiful, to me, and to my dad. In some circles that is considered to be enough. To be loved by your family ‘til death do you part, is a bounty that I would wish for us all.
As I have grown older I have found that I miss her in ways for which I was not prepared. A teenage girl needs her mother. It’s a confusing and, in moments, painful time. And while I cannot fathom fighting with my mother I suppose, had we reached those years together, there would have been some arguments. (I can be a stinker sometimes. What?!) Still, I would have needed her. I needed her when I was married and I found that I didn’t know what that meant. I needed her the first time I was sick away from home. I needed her the last time I was sick. I need her when I can’t decide whether to wear a wrap to an afternoon wedding or not. I need her for guidance and solace and understanding. I need her every day of my life.
The beauty though, of mama, is I have her every day of my life. She is my divining rod. At times I have utterly ignored her voice within me and begged her to look away as I do something of which I know she would not approve. Other times I wonder “Is she giggling at my nonsensical behavior because she would have loved to have done the same”? There are so many facets of her I don’t know. A number of years ago I found a diary of hers. My eyes grew big, I was so excited. This is it, I thought, I’m going to open the door of her soul and know her now. But all the pages were empty, except one, and it said only this; “Ironed today . . . again”. It shattered my heart. Not because I hadn’t learned some long unknown detail of her hopes and aspirations, but because it sounded so sad. Was she sad? Did she long to fly to Paris and stay up all night dancing? What did she want? If she were here now could I give it to her? I’ll never know.
I know this story has been rambling and self indulgent and if you’ve made it this far, God love ya. This story has no point. There is no epiphany. There is no beginning, there is no end. This story will never end because Bobbie Sula Boggs Rogers lives in my heart and my soul and in my throwing of fits and in my manners and in my good dinner china and crystal and in my ability to find beauty and grace in the plainest of plain and my ability to tear you limb from limb if you hurt someone I love and my ability to correct your potty mouth with merely a withering glance and my ability to giggle at your potty mouth if you know there is a time and place for everything. My mother is my hero. My mother spent the shortest amount of time in my life and yet, has influenced me more than anyone. If I do anything good I owe it to her, if I fail I know she loves me as I am.
So, how to end a story with no end? No matter where I end, there will always be more. As I struggle to finish this story I think of my dear friend whose mother is in hospice. When her time comes what will I say to him that can be of comfort? There is nothing, but I have found that silence in the worst of times is better by far than some moron blathering on like they know how you feel. This story is meant to be sad. This story is meant to be happy. This story is meant to be real and this story . . . this much too short and yet ever growing story, is meant to be a testament to my mother.
There has never been anyone like her. Being her daughter is my deepest and most profound honor.