This is what I got my mother for Mother's Day because it reminds me of her:
She took me to museums and botanical gardens and I fell in love with the textiles collections and egyptology at
the Brooklyn museum before I got out of grade school.
She read me"O Captain My Captain" and Annabel Lee as afternoon reading when I was still in second grade.
She taught me that just because you are poor doesn't mean things are allowed to be messy or tasteless. She taught me how to refinish and paint things, and why PT Barnum was right. And she laughed when I tried to change the world but she never stopped me. She created talking toes, and the vanity stool with roses and cherubs where
I learned how to print my name. She grounded me outside when I was in trouble. Keeping me from my books, forcing me into sunlight. She gave me a book light over my bed when she found out that I was reading by the red/orange skewed light of my RaggedyAnn nightlight because she knew she couldn't stop me, because she used to sneak a flashlight under her blankets and do the same thing.
Because of her I know the difference between Rubens:
and Van Dyck
By the way, the woman in the Rubens with the crown of braids cupping her breast looks just like my mother.
We would go to the museums and I would see pictures of the old masters and I would ask "Mommy is that you?" and she would laugh, mostly because they were invariably the ones who were naked. But what it meant in real life as I got older is that I knew my mother was one of the most beautiful women in the world. Because througout history painters who were worthy of being in museums , all throughout time and fashion found women that looked just like my mom and painted them.
She let me read anything I could get my hands on, she ignored me to finish reading her book. She taught me to cook, she built me a dollhouse that I destroyed because I was too young to understand it. I've spent the rest of my life trying to fix it as soon as I was old enough to realize what I'd done. I learned how to make miniature furniture from kits in junior high and was refurbishing the dollhouse itself in high school when it was destroyed in a fire, lost forever, with no further chance for redemption. There is no small part of that going into Poppetropolis.
We are older. Life is complicated, art is complicated, home is complex and many layered and so are mothers and daughters. There are sometimes that we are more alike than others, and there are times when we are completely alien and opaque. Our lives are intertwined at the base but so far apart at the branches that from a distance we might not look like we are in the same garden at all. But because of her when I read about the Queen of Hearts Rose Garden I see the NY Botanical Garden in my head, because she let me be in that image.
When I was in that garden I was sure I was Alice and if I were in that garden now, my children would be sure I was the Red Queen. The truth is no matter which garden I am in, Longwoods or Duke, or Winterthur or any other, when I walk it's grounds I will be my mother's daughter, as surely as all Odalisques, are secretly my mother.
I recognized her immediately when I took my art history class. Exotic, arcane, pretending to be easily understood, more than slightly naughty, full of words and practicality and politics and art, subject to judgement, censorship, fantasy and interpretation.
Here in the Dreamtime, the machines will wrap these words in nibbles and bytes trapping them more permanently than amber. Skittering fragments of a daughter thinking of a mother.
It is the artificial day they gave us instead of the vote, to prove we didn't need to interfere in the male sphere. This is something that is true. That there is this day is still a worthy thing. Mothers are bigger than the narrow definitions that men and children try to place on them. That is also true. That something is worth celebrating. Regardless of how it came to be, you can rejoice in the value a thing has now. I learned that from my mother.