Friday, December 24, 2010
Angels, Saxophones and Maroon Velvet
Today would have been my mother's seventy-seventh birthday. I'm missing her this year -- not the actual mom, you understand -- but the mom of my memories. The mom who lives in that photo above. The happy, beguiling, carefree mom, before she was a mom. Before she met my dad. Before things all went kind of pear-shaped in her life.
Last Sunday, Mark took me to a restaurant I'd never been to -- Cafe Cordiale in Sherman Oaks -- for brunch. (Quick aside - this may be new favorite restaurant ever!) The restaurant was decorated for their annual traditional Dickens Christmas Eve dinner -- all gold ribbon and maroon velvet and nutcrackers, co-owner Margaret explained.
It's all terribly British and Dickensian and Victorian, even amidst the very sleek modernity of the restaurant's decor. It reminded me of Mom and all she loved about Christmas. My mother could be the wackiest, weirdest, most demanding and difficult person on the planet. But at Christmastime, she was pretty much a gem. There was something about whipping out our pipecleaner angel orchestra ornaments (the ornaments she bought for my first Christmas) that always set her in a good mood, as she smoothed out the little gossamer wings and straightened the packing-box-bent pipecleaner arms. Most of them are missing their little instruments now, but when, in my tweens, I pointed this out to Mom, she simply insisted that they had abandoned the orchestra because they'd discovered their true calling -- singing in the choir.
What care we for paper angel instruments?
That's the part of my mother I miss. When she was completely on her game, whole and reasonably healthy, she could be all things funny, charming and beautiful. I wonder sometimes if she could have maintained that energy, that spark, if things might have been different between us. I like to think so. I was speaking to a friend briefly about my troubled relationship with my mother, lamenting that, after my adolescence, it just never seemed to be workable. I hope that in the next lifetime we share, we can both be charming and effervescent, and perhaps actually like each other for a change.
Happy birthday, Mom. The angels are still singing away, accompanied by the one violinist and a lone saxophone player.