It’s not that I never saw what Mum saw.
It’s that I never saw as she did.
My view of Mum was always from behind. Her back ever turned, either standing at the kitchen sink or seated at the sewing machine, this was a mother intent upon managing the household. And, fulfilling this charge was the daily commitment – task by utilitarian task. Born likely of deferred dreams, to her the home was more about its daily upkeep and less about the living beings who occupied the space.
But, occupy I did.
Whether sprawled across the davenport, face embedded in the corner behind the pillow, or planted at the piano, or poured into a novel……I was there. And, what I saw while known to be was driven by the images which first appeared in my mind. Pictures; stories, entire narratives, from a single seed of thought. Though my body lived in her house, I dwelt well outside of it — inside my head.
But, to Mum, whose immediate purpose was home maintenance, anything worth vision was populated by that which dictated the next, practical move. Dishes, crusted with drying food, waiting by the sink. Dust, coating the coffee table. Cluttered magazines, sleeping with newspaper. Dirty clothes, lounging about. These, she clearly saw, every day of the week and Saturday, too.
On the unavoidable occasion which brought us both into the same room, her raised voice would sometimes penetrate the air around me. In tones of exasperation:
“Are you just going to sit there, all day?!”
There was “work” to be done. Didn’t I see it??
No. I did not.
Oh, I saw the coffee table. I saw the sink. I saw the magazines, and the newspaper, too. These were all props, in a delectable scenario which morphed every time my eyes rolled back and to the left, never requiring my interaction. But, if they captured my fancy, I might consider the contour of the sofa pillow, or the crisp leaves of paper, or the outline of the scalloped table’s edge. Perhaps I would grab the sketchbook, and draw them into the still life of a given afternoon.
But — clean them? Straighten them into regimented rows? Why spoil a good lay out? Why wreck the whole picture?
Some fifty years have passed, since Mum moved about around me in the house we called home. Now, the novel coronavirus has been upon the planet for at least eight weeks of our current lives. None of us, whether absent or present of mind, can see it in any form. All we know is its power to manifest, in potentially life threatening proportions. And, because we are nearly defenseless against such invisible, yet diabolical, intent, we must gather our senses as if to battle. We shield our noses and mouths, attacking only that which must afterwards be thoroughly washed. We count the number of steps between our feet and those of the person approaching us on the sidewalk. We stare through the windows, instead of going outside at all.
And, as we look, we are called upon to see our surroundings as our mothers did, as they appear before us demanding our command. The layout of our lives has changed, fundamentally, for as far into the foreseeable as we are able to imagine. We exist framed in an entirely new panorama, one to which we must be accountable nearly every minute. With each blink of our eye we must be present of mind, lest we be found absent, forever.
© 5/14/2020 Ruth Ann Scanzillo All rights those of the author, whose perspective it is, and whose name appears above this line, literally. Thank you for respecting original material.