My Mother’s Hands


This mixed media piece was to be my entry in an upcoming art show.

It was also a challenge to myself to integrate poetry with paint.  In some way, it was a homage to my mother’s life.  The photo is of her at age seventeen.  She was a beauty.  My mother died in 2011 at age 91.  From my perspective, her life had been a long, hard road. I’ve written so much about her, about our relationship, about her relationship with my father.

One of the layers of this painting is a poem, My Mother’s Hands.   After writing the poem  on the canvas, I remember feeling vulnerable.  I was revealing her story to an audience who might not understand the battered wife syndrome.

The poem begins:

I wonder if a palm reader back then would have foretold
–a long life
–an unloving marriage
–an abusive spouse…

…and then I smudged some of the words with gesso and paint.

In the last three years of their lives, my parents were in a care home, a house in a neighborhood with eight elderly residents.  Another sister and I alternated visiting them during the week.  Two other sisters orchestrated their care from afar.  The brothers remained aloof until the very end as they didn’t feel at ease with our father.

In her later years, my mother’s hands were contorted with arthritis.   Her fingers had trouble gripping a spoon and then navigating it to her mouth.  But she had lost so many of her abilities that I didn’t want to help her too much.  I watched as the spoon wobbled towards her mouth.  Her mouth like a quivering bird anticipating food.

My father in the background would say “These are not the golden years.”  I could see that.

One sunny day, we were sitting outdoors under fruit-laden orange trees.  My mother said “I wonder where we go from here.”

“What do you mean, Mom?” I asked.

“After we die.” she said.

“I thought you believed in heaven,” I said, trying to offer comforting words.

My father said “There’s nothing.”

“Dad,” I said, “I thought you had a dream of heaven.  You said it was beautiful.”

My father said, “It was lonely.  I was the only one there.”

In slow motion, my mother reached for my hand and held it–an unfamiliar gesture.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day.  I’m sure thoughts of my mother weave through my mind on any given day.  For one reason or another.

I wonder what she’d be thinking about the state of the world today.  She once asked me to write her story…I’m not sure which one…the one of the devoted wife who stood by her husband no matter what abuse.  Or the possible woman who hid herself away and didn’t have an opportunity to blossom.

Writing About Mom


This is one very complex relationship.  Following is an excerpt from a little book I self-published a few years ago.  I wrote about this relationship in third person.

Emily opened her mother’s dresser drawer.  Lipstick.  Emily removed the cap and screwed the glossy stick up and down several times.  Red, red, red.  She dabbed a little on her lips and smeared it on with her little finger, almost instantly grabbing a tissue to blot it away.  She plied open the powder compact and puffed some on the back of her hand.  The rouge–everything so red.  She stared, trance-like, remembering how she once peeked through the crack of her mother’s bedroom door as she got ready for church on a Sunday.

Severina stood there in her white slip, slightly full of figure, pretty.  Her black, thick, chin-length, waved hair did not fall forward as she leaned to pull on her nylon stockings.  She always wore white gloves when she put on her nylons.  Once the stockings were buckled onto the garter belt, Severina smoothed her slip and drew her navy blue and white polka dot dress over her head.  The dress flattered her rounded figure.  Severina leaned into the mirror and carefully applied the red lipstick; blot and then reapply.  She outlined her lips creating the perfect bow mouth.  

Emily closed the rouge case and returned all the makeup to its proper place.  She slid the second drawer open.  Before she could finger the pearl necklace or inspect the sapphire ring, she heard the click of the latch downstairs.  Quickly, she closed the drawer, shut the bedroom door and returned to her lower bunk bed in the shared bedroom at the other end of the hallway.  She feigned reading her book.
Who was this woman she called “mommy”, she wondered.


Writing Prompt:
Have you written about your relationship with your own mother?

Blessings to all the mothers…their work in the world is priceless.