My mother had exquisite taste, a natural eye for design and beauty. She knew what was worth spending money on (this French chandelier) and where to save a few dollars (buy cheap tile and cut it on the diagonal). Once when a salesman tried to convince her to buy two magenta recliners, she replied, “I’m sorry. I don’t like ugly.”
Five summers ago she moved into her home that she had meticulously planned and decorated. Every nook, every shelf, every faucet and towel rack and light fixture, the glowing cherrywood floors, the beautiful cabinetry is a reflection of my mother’s exquisite taste.
One of her reasons for building a new home was to provide rooms for her mother. We were all a bit puzzled by this. As children we never got to know my grandma, and simply assumed she would spend the rest of her life with her son in Idaho. But my mother was adamant and excited about moving her mother down to Utah.
A few days after my mother moved into her new home I came to visit. I walked through the elegant entryway, admired my dad’s private office to the left and stepped into the kitchen/family room– the heart of the home.
And there, in the middle of the room, where every guest would pass through, was an ancient scratchy tapestry couch. “What is this?” I asked my mom. I’d grown up with furniture like that but my mother had replaced it as soon as she could afford it.
“Oh,” she whispered. “It’s my mother’s couch. I know it’s ugly, but she loves it.”
“But right here, Mom? Right in the middle of your perfectly decorated house?” I ran my hand across it’s rough surface. “Couldn’t you put it in her sitting room?”
Mom shook her head, “No. She wants it here. And I want her to be happy.”
I realized then, how little I knew.
Today is my mother’s birthday, and I had no idea how hard it would be. That every time I look at the date it would feel like a knife through my heart. I went to the cemetery this morning and found two of her friends waiting at the grave– and it was sweet, to know that I wasn’t grieving alone. Once they left, I sat on the grass and cried. And I looked around and wondered what is the protocol for behavior in cemeteries? And decided I didn’t care and lay on the ground and wept out loud.
Erik came to my rescue and promised that we could spend my mother’s birthday the way we have for the past few years– at her house, swimming in her pool, eating marzipan cake. And so we did. And walking through the house, and the garden, and sitting on the ugly couch feels like visiting my mother.