Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Wearing of the White Corsage

It's funny how memory keeps a flash drive of images, times spent, moments from an "ago" that seemed so commonplace, so unremarkable they defy calling up. Yet, suddenly there you are, standing in a kitchen in a home long demolished, getting all antsy for your grandparents and parents to come on...  I was about five years old, and it was Mother's Day. Our family was going out to eat, probably in Moberly at Reed's Corner Restaurant. My mother had told my father in no uncertain terms we needed to get moving or the restaurant would be full. I was always up to speed and in my Mom's opinion corner. I knew I needed to be... or else.

This is the car we were taking, my grandparents' '51 dark green Chevy. I scrambled in the back seat between Gramma and Mom, ponytail no doubt slicked back and perfect. My mother was one of those Mommies in the Dick and Jane Books...  nothing if not perfect.  Then Daddy and Paw-paw turned around and produced three corsages, three colors of carnations all ready for their "girls." Red, pink, and white.

My gramma reached out automatically and took the white one, a sweet smile on her face and a proud tear in her eye. "I wear the white." Mom handed me the red, and she took the pink. I don't really think any symbolism rode on those choices except Mom knew her own mother loved pink the most, and mine loved red.

I remember as if I am saying it now, "Why did you want the white one, Gramma?"  She softly told me it was the only one she could wear. "But why?"

"Well, my own mother is gone," Gramma told me. "I picked the white carnation because she has died."  I sat there in silence (thank goodness) I'm glad I didn't rattle on what my mind was screaming. I was pretty sure I wouldn't want to pick a white flower if my mother were "gone.."  I would want a red one to roar out that she wasn't dead at all. I wouldn't want to say to the world, "My mother isn't here today because she has passed away." I honestly sat and contemplated all that pretty much all the way to the restaurant.

Either my gramma was surely intuitive, or I was an especially loud thinker (and I'm fairly certain it was a little of both) but right before we got out of the car, she reached over and kissed me right on the forehead. "I wish you'd never have to find out. It won't be for a very long time... It's okay to wear the white. I love it because I loved Mommy." (I always thought it was so dear to hear her at her old age say Mommy and Daddy...)

And here I sit... over a half century later...  finally having to symbolically choose the white.... because it is the first Mother's Day without my mom. We don't do carnations, or even going out to lunch any more to honor Mother's Day. It's usually something special I love to cook, a barbecue, or even yummy China Garden takeout. As long as I'm able to be with my son, I'm sure I'll be happy.

I'm ending with a beautiful picture of my mother as a young girl, right before she married my dad... and then a photo of my two grandmothers with me as a young woman. Gramma from this story is fixing the blue formal she made me for my second wedding, and Ma, my dad's mama, is showing me a crochet piece she is working on...

We will hug our Mamas or our memories close this weekend and honor them with real or imaginary carnation corsages of red, pink, yellow, or white...  Much love...

I snapped this picture on Christmas morning 2015, two days before Mama's stroke. 


racheld said...

Absolutely beautiful, words, photos and the memories evocative of those days of voile and net dresses, a snappy green Chevy, and the sweet-pepper scent of carnations rising from a clear plastic box.

I haven't really given a thought to its being this weekend, for I am the oldest lady in our line, both sides, and my own cards and little presents go DOWN the line to the sweet daughter and daughters-in-law who are such wonderful mothers now themselves, to our dear GRANDS.

That red-and-white was certainly a tradition all my life, with my own memories of great lines of neighbor ladies and children coming by my Mammaw's little pink house with its vast garden of roses of all hues on Saturday to beg a bloom or two to wear for church on Sunday.

(Odd, silly memory of the "Grand Opening" of the newly-expanded little drugstore on that Saturday, in which every customer got a tiny green orchid in a stem-vase. Those made for some oddly beautiful corsages, arranged in countless ways with the obligatory red or white blossom amongst the ribbon). I distinctly heard two ladies at church laugh to each other over their as-they-came unadorned little orchids, "Well, I guess we two were just Orphans!"

Many good wishes for a lovely Mothers' Day lunch and day with your dear son---he sounds like a lovely young man. (And General's Chicken is quite as apt for the day as the Chicken du jour at any restaurant).


Heaven's Walk said...

Oh Gayla....what sweet memories you shared today. I know that we will share the same bittersweet emotions on this Mother's Day. A pic of my mom from three years ago popped up on my FB page today, and I instantly broke down in tears. It still seems like yesterday that I was hugging her, feeling her soft cheek against mine. I still miss her so very deeply, and I know I will carry that with me the rest of my life. My heart goes out to you, sweet friend, and to walk this grief journey with you is a blessing to me. Hugs to you, sweetie.

xoxo Laurie