An Inspiring Story: Tell Me Something I Can't Forget. . .
This is a true and inspiring story of how my mom taught me to Stand Up for myself.
"MY MOTHER GETS DRESSED
It is impossible for my mother to do even
the simplest things for herself anymore
so we do it together,
get her dressed.
I choose the clothes without
zippers or buckles or straps,
clothes that are simple
but elegant, and easy to get into.
Otherwise, it's just like every other day.
After bathing, getting dressed.
The stockings go on first.
This time, it's the new ones,
the special ones with opaque black triangles
that she's never worn before,
bought just two weeks ago
at her favorite department store.
We start with the heavy, careful stuff of the right toes
into the stocking tip
then a smooth yank past the knob of her ankle
and over her cool, smooth calf
then the other toe
cool ankle, smooth calf
up the legs
and the pantyhose is coaxed to her waist.
You're doing great, Mom,
I tell her
as we ease her body
against mine, rest her whole weight against me
to slide her black dress
with the black empire collar
over her head
struggle her fingers through the dark tunnel of the sleeve.
I reach from the outside
deep into the dark for her hand,
grasp where I can't see for her touch.
You've got to help me a little here, Mom
I tell her
then her fingertips touch mine
and we work her fingers through the sleeve's mouth
together, then we rest, her weight against me
before threading the other fingers, wrist, forearm, elbow, bicep
and now over the head.
I gentle the black dress over her breasts,
thighs, bring her makeup to her,
put some color on her skin.
Green for her eyes.
Coral for her lips.
I get her black hat.
She's ready for her company.
I tell the two women in simple, elegant suits
waiting outside the bedroom, come in.
They tell me, She's beautiful.
Yes, she is, I tell them.
I leave as they carefully
zip her into
the black body bag.
Three days later,
I dream a large, green
When I unzip it,
my mother is inside.
Her dress matches
her eyeshadow, which matches
perfectly. She's wearing
"I'm here," she says, smiling delightedly, waving
and I wake up.
Four days later, she comes home
in a plastic black box
that is heavier than it looks.
In the middle of a meadow,
I learn a naked
more than naked.
I learn a new way to hug
as I tighten my fist
around her body,
my hand filled with her ashes
and the small stones of bones.
I squeeze her tight
then open my hand
and release her
into the smallest, hottest sun,
a dandelion screaming yellow at the sky.”
― Daphne Gottlieb,
What I should have known about that incident is that it would indelibly be engraved in my subconscious. I should have known that my mother's words would define every future action, every decision I took.
My memory of it is blurry as childhood memories often are.
My brother who's two younger than I were squabbling. I may have been 11 or 12 years old. We were fighting as we were inclined to do, and soon it developed into a full-blown scuffle where he hit me on the side of my head.
"Pow." My brother was two years younger than me but bigger and more aggressive.
"Waaaaah." The force of his blow knocked me down. I remember getting up from the floor, nursing my hurting head in my right palm and running to my mom to complain.
As I wiped my tears, she told me the magical truth that has carried me through many a challenge. My mom turned me back towards my brother with a shove.
"Go hit him back," she said. "You're going to live in a world of men. You need to know how to deal with them."
I went and attacked him. I don't remember what exactly I did, but I do remember that my brother didn't hit me again.
Fast forward about 10 years when I decided to become a litigator and take up cudgels on behalf of the beaten and the battered in the District attorney's office, I remembered my mom's words. And, when my boyfriend of three years broke up with me, and I pieced myself together, met and married my husband of 27 years, built a flourishing new life in a foreign country; I remembered my mom's words.
Thanks to my mom's words, I've been a proud, card-carrying feminist all my adult life.
Honestly, I really want a shiny FBI badge to flash and maybe a special pen to write with (no guns, thank you, that's not part of the program anyway) but maybe a laminated card in my wallet with the words, "Feminist. Sassy Wife and Spirited Mother" emblazoned on it would do just as nicely:-)