My mother had these amazing hands. Her fingers were beautifully slender and I grew up watching them dance around the piano keys so gracefully, like finger-shaped ballet dancers. She was always making cookies and when she would scoop balls of dough in her hands, she would have to go back later and pick dried cookie dough out of her wedding ring. I am lucky enough to wear the same ring and even inherited her skinny fingers, which she inherited from Grams.
Three generations of middle-named Jane bakers with skinny fingers. My hands remind me of both of them, stirring the cookie dough, dancing them around piano keys, measuring them against mine, palm to palm, as mine grew and grew into their own, taut skin around tiny bones.
I lost my mother at age 16. Fourteen years later, Mother’s Day isn’t easier. But 14 years of pain and sadness, feeling a loss that can’t be described, I’ve learned to celebrate her life, in an effort to keep remembering how absolutely amazing she was, as a mother and as a person.
My mother was incredibly in touch with what she was supposed to do and was constantly on an adventure. All of her adventures probably scared her, but they never stopped her. She listened to a voice inside of her that made fear insignificant.
As I feel apprehensive about changing careers for the first time, I remember my mother as constantly searching for her purpose. She wasn’t afraid to go out and find it.
Career #1: Private Detective. To become a private detective for grocery stores and department stores, my mom had to pass the police test. She caught plenty of ladies stealing cheese at the grocery and an old man trying to steal a hairbrush by “hiding it” in the back of his very tight sweater.
Career #2: Missionary: My mother moved to Haiti and lived with a Catholic nun named Sister Betty where she built orphanages, taught fourth-graders English, learned Creole, wrote Creole-infused songs on her guitar and modified her outstanding cookie recipe using Haitian ingredients. I’ve never been to Haiti, but the culture is so tightly-wrapped around my childhood that I still use Creole words around my dad and brother.
Career #3: Radio DJ: My mom became a radio DJ without anything but a deep love for music. I acquired a deep love for coffee during my summers off in eighth grade as her unofficial “intern/coffee mug filler.”
Today as the nation celebrates their mother with brunch and flowers and simply spending time, I am going to remember my mother, not fearless, but amazing, successful and adventurous in spite of all the fear. Instead of being sad that she isn’t here to guide me on my new adventures, maybe her memory is exactly what I need: being afraid, but doing it anyway. And that the back of a tight sweater is no place to hide a hairbrush.