Mom had trouble keeping a straight face but it wasn’t the same problem as mine. Hers would collapse into abject horror or disgust or despair instead of hopeless giggles like mine. It wasn’t that I couldn’t be shocked. I could. I was. But my reactions to life ranged more from the funny-peculiar to the funny-“haha.” Mom’s were of a higher pitch and decibel level. For an introvert, she could be loud. When she let loose, it was an “everybody duck” situation. I knew I was different from my mother. We all knew to step lightly around her and my father put a lot of energy into the entire dynamic of “Don’t tell your mother.” Damaging as that was, there was a practical aspect to a little peace and quiet when things were quietly slipped under the rug.
She took pleasure in crafts and decoration as an escape. She took us to ceramics class when we were little. We worked on little things. I made an ashtray for her with pink flowers and light green grass and scratched an inscription on the back with the date. She gave it back to me when I was in my 20’s. I was glad she kept it but sad that she gave it back to me, a little rejected.
While we worked on our little projects, she experimented with different glazes and created a magnificently and complexly colored rooster which earned her a blue ribbon at the county fair. It was clear that blue ribbons were the only ones worth earning. I broke it one day horsing around with my brother, knocked it over with a swing of my hand onto the thick sand-colored marble top of our round kitchen table. Daddy tried to hide it, to glue it back together so she wouldn’t notice. But Mom had sharp eyes. She was devastated. She screamed and cried over her lost masterpiece and threw it in the trash. It was tragic for her that the rooster was broken but so much worse that my father had tried to cover it up, to make it better. We were all lost that day.
The process of creation for her could be soothing though. I loved Easter egg day which was usually Easter Saturday, just like today. We would get our Pas Bunny kits with the wire egg holder that never seemed to fit the eggs and the cups with vinegar and tablets of color in each. We all wanted the blue one, so light like a robin’s egg that with layer on layer could go towards teal. I experimented with the dyes to create different effects, most of them coming out somewhere between “camo” and mud. Every once in a while, I’d get something I liked, a pink, white and yellow striped one or something and set it into the cardboard holder to dry.
I loved eggs. I liked them boiled, scrambled, over easy and especially sunny side up. My favorite treat for starting out a vacation was to stop at the Royal Castle for a breakfast of sunny side up eggs, grits and French fries. It was the south. It was the fifties and sixties. We didn’t know what cholesterol was. We didn’t know why people had heart attacks. Things like eggs and grits and potatoes were good for you then.
“Mommy, baby chicks come from eggs, right?”
She stopped in dread. She did not want to have this conversation, not with a 5 year old. The Ace of Wands, the essence of life, growth, new projects, the beginning of beginnings had sneaked into the conversation and was there blazing before her like a torch held by angry villagers pounding on the door of the fugitive. She had been chased down before she was ready to be caught.
|Art Postcard Tarot
(c) copyright 2010 Marcia McCord
“Yes,” she said slowly, stopping whatever housework she was doing at the time and turning to me. I could tell she was afraid. I couldn’t tell why. Baby chicks weren’t scary. They were fuzzy and yellow and cute and peeped and had bright black eyes.
“Not all eggs have baby chicks. Some of them are just eggs, right?” After all, I’d eaten a lot of eggs by then and never once found a baby chick. Wouldn’t that be a surprise? It would be the jack in the box of nature, to find a baby chick as a surprise in your Easter basket one morning.
“Yes,” she said, a little more confident, hoping we were just on the topic of baby chicks.
“And the mommy chicken sits on them and keeps them warm until they hatch.” I had a vision of a clean wooden crate with nice clean straw, a box just high enough for a chicken to step into in a clean dry place, sheltered from rain, safe from predators.
“Yes,” she said, a little more relaxed. At least we were going forward with the nice, caring mommy chicken and the fuzzy baby chicks and not backward to the origins.
“Did I come from an egg?”
I had in mind something like an Easter egg, something with a pretty shell with lots of colors, not just pink like my Mom always picked out for me. I wanted yellows and blues and greens and oranges too. I was pretty sure I wasn’t boiled first because then, well, I wouldn’t hatch.
On guard again. “Yes.” Her eyes opened wide with their storm-cloud blue sparkling a little with laser beam focus. We were suddenly in dangerous territory again. She inhaled one long deep breath and held it.
“Did you sit on me, too, like the mommy chicken?”
She looked at me and blinked and suddenly laughed. “Yes,” she said. I laughed too. I couldn’t imagine my mother sitting on a box with hay in it. She was much too proper to do that. Her dresses would get hay on them and get dusty. How she must have suffered so to have me! But she had kept me warm until I hatched so that must mean she loved me. I was satisfied.
“I think I’d rather have a baby duck instead of a baby chick, Mommy.” And I went back to my stuffed toys and the stories they told. My mother resumed breathing normally.
My day was sunny side up, and I was satisfied with my origins.