The Mother Rose

Petite and curvy, Mom looks startlingly young for her age. She wears a tricky shade of lipstick -- reddish brownish bronze. It suits her. A master cook, Mom thrives on contact with people. I can b

Petite and curvy, Mom looks startlingly young for her age. She wears a tricky shade of lipstick — reddish brownish bronze. It suits her.

A master cook, Mom thrives on contact with people. I can barely cook a potato and tend to be a loner. Somehow, we still laugh and talk like two teenagers. Might catch her dancing in the kitchen.

She's loving and strong. When I was barely 18, she kicked me out of her house. I deserved it.

The week before this past Mother's Day, I repeatedly asked Mom if she wanted to get together. First she wanted a bowling match. Scratch that, a movie. Then she didn't want to do anything at all. That meant to keep the day open.

Finally, she said, "I know! Do you want to go to church with me?"

Dead silence. I tried changing the subject back to movies.

But she had the "Mom voice" going on, which included calling me "sweetie."

"I'll go," I finally said.

I'm not a churchgoing person. In the past, I've tried every kind of religious worship one can imagine, including pagan rituals at a nudist resort. None of them have been for me.

These days, I've settled on yoga and a personal spirituality. Loose ritual. Sometimes I pray, meditate or study yogic texts. On Sundays I might go for a run, microwave a meal and watch crap television.

But it was her day, and I made plans to pick her up for church. Just in time, I arrived at her place in Anderson. She looked pretty and bright; her hair was soft blonde, wispy and shiny, pulled back with two tiny clips.

She smiled, sinking into the passenger seat. "Hi, honey," she said, like always.

The day was sunny and crisp. We were two ladies cruising Beechmont Avenue, chatting about men. Both of us were dating. We talked in circles, accomplishing nothing. She gave me directions. I gave her directions. We cracked up.

As we parked, I reminded myself of the old saying "Take what you need and leave the rest."

We were late. No surprise here. Mom and I often walked choppy and hurried, trying to beat the clock, our short bodies and short legs bouncing.

That's when the fun began.

At the doorway, several men handed every mother a long-stemmed red rose to celebrate the day. Mom beamed, holding up her rose triumphantly.

Then the man handed a rose to me, shouting, "Here!"

"But I'm not a mother," I said, trying to hand it back to him.

"You will be a mother someday!" he shouted again, smiling like his lips might bust. A creepy clown.

"Probably not," I said back.

Now, I had no idea what might happen in the future, but I wanted options. His assumption that I would be a mother bugged me. Mom dragged me away from the rose man.

We went inside. "Take what you need and leave the rest," I reminded myself.

In the worship room, there was singing. The band singing. The crowd singing. It seemed that the chairs were even singing.

People lifted their arms, praising the words. They had that "I'm lost in the spirit" look. I felt like a carnival goldfish in a tank full of sharks.

We sat down. I didn't sing, but it was nice being with Mom and supporting her on her spiritual path. Then there was communion. I didn't do that either.

I looked around — some people had their hands raised like TV evangelists. I shifted in my seat, waiting for Mom to return from having whatever they were serving. Looked like white gumballs.

Then the minister turned on a large screen video. A video about abortion. The first scene featured a shadowy, faceless woman whisper-talking about her guilt and remorse. It delivered a message of extreme shame. I cringed.

I looked at Mom, mouthing, "Do you believe this?"

Mom curled her bottom lip down. That meant she hoped I wouldn't make a scene. But I could tell she was surprised too.

I'd never had an abortion, but I looked around, wondering if anyone in the room was struggling with it. I almost walked out. But I was torn — I wanted to keep my Mother's Day promise. I still had the damn rose.

When the service was over, Mom introduced me to her bubbly friend next to us.

Bubble lady asked, "What did you think of the service?" I thought her thick makeup might crack.

I said, "Well, it was good, but I prefer yoga."

Bubble lady said, "I used to do yoga, about 30 pounds ago, but it doesn't work like finding Christ."

"It works for me," I stated.

She told me that my way wasn't the right way.

In the car, I felt anger churn inside of me. All in one morning, I'd been told I had to be a mother, that being pro-choice was wrong and that my entire way of spiritual living wasn't good enough. My hot hands gripped the steering wheel so tight I thought I might melt it. Wax wheel.

But it was Mom's day, so I let it go. Completely.

Inside her place, Mom made me a turkey sandwich. Hers were always better than mine. We talked about men and cracked up.

As I left, Mom hugged me, saying, "Bye, sweetie."

I gave her my rose. Hers needed company.

CONTACT C.A. MACCONNELL: [email protected]

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