Queen for the Day

Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.

Mother’s Day is often a bittersweet day for me as I am sure it is for many of you, dear readers. We all have memories of times shared with our moms, memories as fresh as this past Sunday or as long ago as the times when we pinned a white or happily a bright red carnation, a symbol for a mother who still was with us, on our lapel dress collar. Do any of you remember that tradition? Are there any that still celebrate a dearly beloved mother by pinning a corsage on her Sunday dress and seeing her march proudly into the church sanctuary, head held high wearing a beautiful token of her children’s love? I see fewer and fewer flowers on that May Sunday.
Mother’s Day this year was personally quite satisfying for me. While there were no flower corsages, my daughter did present me with a bejeweled tiara and, more importantly, she smiled warmly, while actually acknowledging me as her mother . . . in public! Yes. I wore my rhinestone crown when she took me out to enjoy a pedicure and also when we visited a rather upscale gift shop in the little South Carolina coastal town of Bluffton where she and her husband make their home. When it came time for the “take Mother out to dinner” event, I was surprised that I was expected to wear the now quite comfortable regal symbol of my Queen-ship.
The most wonderful part of my day was not the pedicure (the luxurious massage and bright red nails were a huge treat), nor the visit to the ritzy shop where even I might have been a tad overdressed, and it was not even the fabulous dinner seated at the edge of an inland waterway marina. No. It was the pleasure I received each time my daughter smiled broadly and introduced me to friends, clerks, manicurists, waiters and strangers dining close by as “my Mom, Queen for the Day!” ”My Mom.”  Such sweet, sweet words.
How I wish that I could once again spend a Mother’s Day pinning a little cymbidium orchid corsage on my mom’s navy silk dress, the one she wore with her white and navy spectator pumps. And I would not be in such a hurry to rush through lunch at T’s Restaurant in Augusta (she did love their Catfish), or to be so quick to drop her back at her home (we both did long for a nap, though).
No, there are so many things I wish I could change, so many kindnesses I wish I had offered to the woman who took such good care of me, and who until I turned fourteen, was my heroine. On June 29, my birthday, I suddenly turned into this sulky, know-it-all who treated her with…there is only one word for how I behaved toward this beautiful woman . . . Disdain. Unfortunately, I had no grandmother who adored me, but who would tell me how much I was hurting my mother. Mom had lost her mother that same year that I decided I was too “cool” for good night kisses. I don’t think I ever acknowledged her own great loss.
Now, Momma wasn’t a saint and she sure wasn’t an angel, but Miss Hettie had a big heart and her family took up a very large part of it. When I was growing up, there was almost always one of her nine siblings, most considerably younger, living with us. If there was no extra bedroom, then they shared with me, which I loved because my aunts, while they were my “roommates”, taught me all kinds of useful things. How to “tease” my hair, apply Maybelline cake mascara (spit on the brush and rub it on a cake of dark brown stuff—then brush up and over your lashes), and how to totter about in high-heeled shoes. My Aunt Honey taught me how to protect myself from bullies by loading my Dale Evans lunch box with rocks and taking a big swing in their direction if it looked like I was in danger! Momma would not have sanctioned any such behavior, but what she didn’t know . . . .
Unfortunately, after I turned 14, I became enamored with BOYS and wanted My Privacy. I certainly did not want a giant, 6 foot 7 inches tall, 17 year old uncle sharing the hall bathroom with me. Gross. The beginning of my War of the Roses. Nothing mother said or did was right in my mind. She lived in an entirely different world than the one I lived in; a world inhabited by Marlon Brando, a dead James Dean, beatnik poetry, and black turtlenecks. Oh my, I was sooo sophisticated! And bless her heart, she was so not with it! I don’t think I ever again really allowed her to “mother me.” How sad for me. How very foolish.
We did have some wonderful times together as a family, but we never achieved the closeness between mother and daughter that I read of in novels. Is it real?  Like Marmee in “Little Women.” Or the sweet relationships Carolyn and her girls portrayed on “Little House on the Prairie.” Remember how even bratty Scarlet’s mother was held in such high regard? Both “Liv” and Granny Walton were adored by the children and grandchildren always clustered about them in a warm snuggle waiting on a drop of wisdom. Sigh. But not I. No, I gave her less and less time as we got older, and though she was widowed at 51 years, I was too busy to look behind me where she stood waiting perhaps for me to close that gap I had created so many years before. And even though I made small efforts in later years, when she was struggling with age and illness, it was too late.
Cherish. Yes, cherish. That is what I would do today. And I would put the biggest, the shiniest, the prettiest Tiara I could find on her beautiful snow-white head. And I would hold her close. And I would tell her that I loved her.

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