Thinking of Mom and mothers …

My Mother’s Beauty

I don’t think anyone ever said of my mother that she was “a beauty.” A childhood photo when she was nine shows a slender and almost delicate girl on pointe in a perfect ballet tutu and pose. Her face is serious. Photos from her teen years show a serious pensiveness–no smile, but no frown either. Was she always serious? Perhaps this was before the era of family events that are always being marked by photo opps and parents’ admonitions to “smile.”

Love Creates Beauty

Mom and Dad 1942

Photos with my dad early in their marriage remind me of two kids having fun together- and in love.

When my mother was raising children in the expected full-time-mom era, the words I ascribed to her were serious, strong, determined. She was determined her three girls would be accomplished, and achieve all she set out for them. The few times I remember her dressed up she was still tall and proud in dresses that swished when she walked. 

Aging Beauty

The day I noticed her beauty was a cold, gray winter morning in 2004 when I walked into Regency Gardens Nursing Residence. By then her children were grown, even her grandchildren were grown, and she had been a merry widow until a stroke slowed her down in 2002. 

Winter sunlight coming in a window holds none of the frigidness of a Northeast winter, only a softer light. Sitting in her wheelchair by the window, both feet, now in permanent retirement, were propped on the footrest. Her hair was a silver halo. Something like peace seemed to surround her.

Coming a few steps into her room, my view of her shifted like a camera on a dolly curving around and in on its model. Her stroke-affected right arm curled up and into her chest at the elbow as if her hand was like an infant wanting to be close to its mother. Her left hand supported her chin. Her face was at rest. A small oval face, pale, held up by an arthritic and age-spotted hand.  

She turned and a smile, small and slow, embraced her face. She was beautiful. It was almost as if her face got lighter, not more pale, but suffused with a light like when the sun comes from behind a cloud and the shadow it has cast slides away. Her head tilted a little to the side as she looked at me. “I didn’t think anyone was coming to visit today.” And because my heart filled with love, she was even more beautiful. 

Happy Mother’s Day!

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Zoom gatherings, and anywhere there’s a mic.