This Christmas, I spent a solid week (ask my husband) making dolls for my godchildren. It was a grueling task, but having completed it, I have such an immense sense of having accomplished something worthwhile. I look at the Raggedy Ann doll that sits beside my bed, well loved, repaired multiple times over the years, and I know that those dolls can last a lifetime. Perhaps 30 years from now one of my godchildren will look at my work from the last week and understand for the first time how much I love him, or what I was trying to communicate when I spent this week benignly cursing as I assembled her doll’s feet.
It has occurred to me many times over the years that, while I never really sat down and learned sewing, quilting, doll making, dollhouse building, painting, woodworking, radio fixing, violet growing, or gardening at my mother’s feet, I watched her doing all those things at some point during my childhood. I suppose I learned by osmosis. My mother is a multi-talented, many faceted artist, and she passed her gifts on to me. My house is overflowing with her creativity, when I take the time to look and remember. Raggedy Ann, quilts that I watched her create, crocheted shawls that drape my doors and peer out from 40-year-old pictures, memories of the broken cassette player I watched her disassemble and put back together, now working. There was and is nothing my mom can’t do when she decides she’s going to do it.
She was, in so many ways, an amazing mother. She excelled at creating wonder when we were young, as well as when we were grown. She made my wedding dress when I first married. The marriage didn’t last, but the dress is still in her closet. More than 5000 seed beads adorn the train and the bodice. It was a crowning achievement, or so I thought at the time.
But since then, my mother has painted a gallery full of intricate water color and acrylic paintings. It seems pain begets beauty. I’m sad for the heartache, but the beauty is sometimes more than I can stand. How well does a woman ever really know her mother? Perusing her work, I wonder at the thought rooms I never knew existed in the woman I so resemble in more ways than one.