my mother’s love at nautilus teachings

1960’s-My slow baby steps up the red wooden stairs to the landing which double as a toy room is done with a giant grin upon my face. No one is usually up here and I can escape to play Barbies or make-believe. These days are filled with carnation pinks and pool blues I want to dip my feet into and swim around in.
There are also the deep purple and midnight black days. The days when I run in from playing in the park across the street and take those red steps two at a time. They are the time when the bright red turns burgundy, when the cracks of color in the walls seem to disappear and the railing which I so lightly hold on most days becomes my pull up stick.
Traveling up
I’m running fast
Thinking of my sunny day
And how I want it to last
I ran around the park
I swam in the pool
For today it is summer
No more school…
I am hit in the chest
The pain shoots
Through me
And as I
Land near the bottom
I look up towards the door
And know in a moment
I am going to be sore.
Aching all over
A bruise maybe two
my brothers
Cannot imagine
The damage they do
Inside of my head
Inside this small heart
There are days upon days
I don’t want to start
I don’t want to move
Or smile a fake grin
I just want to die
For I never will win…
The red door at the bottom of the red wooden steps becomes the landing strip for my small body and the gold, shiny knob is the extra little ‘gotcha’. Reaching the top in my muted red Radio Flyers I am launched backwards with a quick shove to the chest. Sparks fly in my mind, I feel myself tumbling so I shut my eyes and pray before I hit the red painted wooden door of our play room. On these days it is all I can do to breathe in the sweaty air dripping of muted grays and laundry faded purples. I hold my breath until I “thwummmp” at the door and my mother opens it wide as I roll onto the floor.
“Sheri! My dearheart are you o.k.?” cries my mom.
Embarrassed and hurting I look into her pools of amber brown eyes and nod in silent longing. I hold my tears, I begin to shake and just like the wind taking the door, my mother lifts me up and I don’t hurt any more.
My mom
always held me
My mom
was my earthly
great protector
Her soft, fleshy
peach toned smile
became one
of the warmest colors
on my palette
her encircling
long, tender arms
filled with love
the sweetest
of the pale pinks.
Her chestnut eyes
The shell for wise old Mr. Hawksbill.
The colors of my palette are from the cracks in the 11 wooden steps which are painted red by my mother. I watch her with the big brush taking long, slow strokes on the days when we are told to stay outside. Of course, I do not think that rule applies to me because I can stand, sit or lie in cornered silence and you will never know I am there. My palette grows from the light which shines through the cracks in the steps while I am hiding in the angled closet underneath. The light reflects off of my mother’s things which I hide amongst each time I am pushed or held down or spit upon.The myriad of colors sparkle through my salty tears, run down my rosy cheeks and land upon my tongue. It mixes with my red blood and voyages to a place inside of my heart that from the first tumble on belongs only to me. My palette is locked up inside of me waiting for a day to be released.
2007-Studio-The steps, whether tumbling down them, climbing up them or hiding under them, are as real today as they were 45 years ago. I feel my mother’s suitcase calling me from the corner of my studio. Inside is all I have left of the physicality of her-her wedding gown, memory book and a few small odds and ends. My mother always had her suitcase packed for a quick get-a-way, yet I don’t know if she ever left when I was small. This 40” x 30” canvas stretches before me interlaced with memories of her. What would she pack? What would she want me to know as an adult? Were here colors still viable 25 years after her death? I paint in loving strokes the image of a woman-my mother coming from ocean with a trunk. My mother loved water. I painted the ocean Robin’s Egg blue which was the color of her silky eye shadow she wore almost her entire life. I feel happy, free and ready to go with her. In her hand I place a trunk because to me her tiny blue suitcase could never hold all of her contagious energy and beauty. Upon it I paint stickers each one reminding me of things she believed or would want to pack. The soft sand, the color of her sun kissed skin in the summers of my youth. “Mother’s Day” stares back at me and I can feel the movement of her body. I know her spirit is with me as I gently sign the name given me so long ago by her sweet lips and hang the painting above her suitcase filled still with the very scent of her soul.