On my hands, at 24, are already the marks of the sun. Tiny, brown sun spots that slowly spread across my knuckles and down the backs of my hand. They’re not pretty, these spots, but I love them. I stare at them, transfixed by them, because they look like the hands of my mother, and I guess I hope that if I’ve got her hands, I’ve somehow got her heart.
She’s a gem, my mother. A genuine, bonafide, rare jewel: the kind people have to take a double look at because they’re a little unsure about what they’ve just come across. I’ve seen it. She is a joyful bundle of paradox, a star that shines so brightly she’s never had the option to be anything but wholly herself. And here is what she is.
She is a lover of Bon Jovi, of Josh Groban, and she belts their songs in the car, substituting “Dee” for any word she doesn’t know until suddenly, whole songs and symphonies are made up in the key and letter of “D”. She is a woman who, speaking the queen’s perfect English, can tell my brother’s choir director straight faced that no, she won’t be producing any more “musical geniuses” because she no longer “has the parts”. She is a closet salsa dancer, Jodi Picoult’s biggest fan, and when she laughs, you feel like you’ve just been wrapped around with a warm blanket.
She’s never afraid to laugh, at you, at herself, at anything that strikes her fancy in the moment. She has a habit of laughing when she’s not supposed to: in church, in company, at a nice restaurant, and when she does, her face looks like a little girl caught in the act, and I have to remind myself that she is the mother and I am the child.
She smells like gardenia and fresh soap. Her hands are soft, always warm, never sweaty. She exudes comfort, a walking invitation of stay right here, sit a while, this is where you’re safe. She’s efficient and productive in the hours that count, but then she puts the kettle on and her feet up, and anything you have to say you better say right then, because she is ready to talk.
She is, at the heart of herself, a cheerleader. She celebrates minor and major victories alike, with an enthusiasm that can make you feel like you’re the greatest thing that ever happened. She dismisses setbacks and failures with an “ah well, next time,” until you’re convinced that really, it’s good that you missed this job or opportunity. I’ve long ago stopped trusting her for an accurate opinion, because she can walk into the dingiest, scariest apartment and simply rave about the amazing view.
She is, without a doubt, the most tangible expression of joy I’ve seen on this earth. An instant “fun maker,” she makes any situation more humorous and enjoyable. I see the delight she takes in her children, her husband, her garden and her work and am breathless at the thought that our Heavenly Father somehow has more joy than she. You’ll never leave her side without feeling better, happier, more whole for it.
My father is a wonder in his own right, a wise man, an encouraging man, a person I cannot write about without hurting a little bit, because he fills such a tender place in my heart. People look to him, always, for answers, for advice, for guidance and for strength, but my siblings and I have seen also the way that he looks to my mother for these things. She is for him a breath of fresh air, a smile at the door and an escape from the demands he faces all day. She followed him across the ocean and made a home there for him, and she follows him to the ski lift every year without fail. She makes him laugh and he loves her so evidently that she shines all the brighter. No marriage is simple, or easy, or perfect, but I think my sister and I will both say that our own transitions into marriage were made so much smoother by the example we found in our mother.
When I think of my mom, I think of sparkles. Almost every item of clothing she owns is covered in sequins, glitter, or bells, from her jingle socks to her shimmery eye shadow and her curly, bouncy hair. I wonder if, long ago, she realized she would always be a sparkler, clothed in black or dressed to the nines, so she just decided to embrace it. She’s bold, that woman, and we love her more for it.
Part of me wonders if I should take better care of my hands; if I should stay out of the sun or away from the garden. Then I remember the hands of my mother, and how those hands embody so well all she is and does, and I think, I’ll take all the sun spots in the world, if it will also make me like her.