Only a few minutes earlier my eyes had drifted to a stack of boxes on the opposite side of the small living room. I have spent many morning hours, feet tucked under me, in the big brown chair and a half, cradling my coffee cup. Before the brown chair it was a blue one, and before the blue chair it was the now gone leather sofa.
One box in particular caught my eye, as it had been doing for days. It was taped shut with the words “Fragile Angels” scrawled across one side in black Sharpie ink. Fragile Angels. I’d been rolling that one around in my head for days, and this is how today's art project began.
I lightly sketched a large heart with pencil and, inside the shape, carefully wrote these words: Angels are only fragile on the outside.
My mom was on my mind, along with all the women I've loved over a lifetime They've all been hurt by life and scarred by illness, injuries, accidents, or loss, and they are the strongest people I know.
A woman I used to know came to mind. Sandi had told me how she had a habit of collecting, and also breaking, angels. The collecting was on purpose, but the breaking was never intentional. It used to upset her, she said, until someone told her that it was okay – that’s how the light gets in. Or, maybe she said that's how the light gets out, which is equally powerful. Today, as this sketch evolved into a painting, I thought of Sandi and her chipped, shattered, glued back together angels, too.
The phone rang and the caller ID announced my mother there on the other end. Like a five year old child, a huge smile flooded my face because I knew she must be calling to say she received my surprise in the mail. It was a handmade piece of art that doubled as a Mothers Day card, which tripled (I suppose) as a Thank You card. “Thank you for ice chips. For letting me stir the Jello. Thank you for defending my song. Thank you for the belly laughs. The music. For sharing your art. For finding my glasses….” I thanked her for as many things as would fit on the surface and I knew she was calling to say she got it and, of course, loved it. What mother wouldn’t love being thanked for all of the hand decorated lunch bags she'd labored over before her own coffee was finished, more than 50 years ago?
I hurried for the machine and my heart fell when I found it out of reach on the other side of a double row of stacked boxes. Mom's voice broadcast over the answering machine as I frantically reached for the phone only to realize it wasn’t even there. I spun around and around, trying to find it. Where is the damned phone? I hollered, more than once. Full out sobbing erupted as my mother’s voice left heartfelt thank yous and a string of kisses on the answering machine. I tried again to get to it, thinking there might be an intercom feature to press and I could answer the phone that way, but those boxes were too many and too heavy, and then, click, she was gone. By the time my husband made it to the room, perplexed and concerned about all the yelling, I was painting in silence, tears quietly streaming down my face, feeling sad, humiliated, and little.
He found the phone for me and, when the little girl in me gave way to my more mature, composed self, I called her back. We laughed when I told her I couldn’t find the phone, and she told me how much she loved the card and how she’d read it over and over again and again. Mom said it made her laugh, and I’ll venture a guess and say it made her cry, too. Neither of us confessed tears, though.
We live far away from my parents, and by this time next week we will live even farther away. However, today she will take me with her to the Mothers Day Picnic. I will ride along inside her pocketbook, practically breathing inside that card. “I’m going to show everyone,” she said, beaming. “Everyone. Everyone is going to see it, and then I am never putting it away.” My childish despair had shifted to nothing but joy. Nailed it.
Moving is hard.
Besides, maybe everyone is little on Mothers Day.