Morning arrives. Sunlight spots a fracture in which it can poke through the blue and white linen curtains. It highlights several bottles of prescribed medications atop a painted white nightstand. A carafe of water within reach, with the flowered glass fitting over the carafe’s top. From my garden, I place freshly picked red roses in a mason jar and tie a red satin ribbon in a bow, around its center.
Will she notice? Probably not. All that I do has been for her, but it soothes my discomfort and offers her an opportunity to feel the beauty of simple things.
My mother, a beautiful woman, a classic beauty. Facially she adorns high cheek bones, with wide almond shaped eyes, and a chiseled square bone structure. Her value as a woman was placed in her beauty. An Ashkenazi Jew, her nose was hooked and overshadowed her timeless features. A simple procedure changed her ethnic appearance. Beauty, the frontrunner in which opportunities are born, could take this 1950’s housewife, from ordinary to extraordinary.
My mother embraced her external beauty and wore this honor demurely yet with an emboldened sense of self. She would encounter jealousy and anger and depression as her beauty brought challenges. She would shop incessantly for beautiful clothing, only in the highest of fashion boutiques. The sales help came running when they saw her arrive and would fill her dressing room with outfits while they remained in the room, assisting her with the changing of each article of clothing. They tended to her as she glanced at herself in the tri-fold mirror examining the fit, the look, the color against her skin, the lay of the garment, flattering or not. The staff seamstress would be called in to recreate the flow of the fabric to increase the possibility of the sale. Her husband sat outside the dressing room on a comfortable sofa patiently waiting, always a warm smile on his face, observing as she fashioned each outfit for his perusal. He was always treated like a king, being offered wine or pastries to keep him content. The staff hoping to drain him of all his money. She often heard, “I wish he were my husband, angering her, as she felt her attributes were overlooked while his were revered. Competitive in nature she was always felt embattled when people seemed to like him more then her, which she believed he somehow gained at her expense. All of this was an outgrowth of her desires to continue offering an alluring image of couture and beauty which she believed people came to expect from her.
Her beauty as a woman, was met. She felt she had achieved the outward appearance that she was hoping for. She had received attention from men, some notable, and she won the recognition from woman who once belittled her appearance. She even took a lover.
She went on to live her life surrounded by beauty. Beautiful homes, designer furnishings, ornamental gardens with reflecting pools, lots of big jewels, stunning yachts, and luxury automobiles, but she found that her external beauty had a lot of trouble relating to her internal beauty. A quick procedure was not available to fix that. She felt so satiated outside and so barren inside.
Why do I feel so alone and sad; I am loved by family, other than my dad
Daughters translate to weak, while sons translate to strong
As I am a female and for that fact, I will always be wrong
Was her life’s work all for nothing? Did she miss the point of beauty? As the decades flew by, she started to see her beauty fade. Her internal beauty had always been in second, or third place with not a lot of success in scoring more internal points. She tried and she tried, making her plight sad and rigorous. She visited psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, a psychotherapist (he tried to seduce her in session), and social workers. MSW not LSW. For an LSW in her mind, needed more education to counsel her.
She annihilated friends that had inner and outer beauty. The jealousy was too much to stomach. She refused to call it as such, but it was hard core envy. Deeper and deeper into depression she would fall, making her anger lash out at others. No matter how hard she searched for an answer to her lacking internal beauty, she would come up empty. She started to accept the notion that all this internal nonsense was someone else’s doing. Her husband wasn’t romantic enough, her son not nice enough, her daughter-in-law not respectful enough, and her daughter didn’t give her enough attention. Her friends, they were to be watched for all possible betrayals. If they made plans with one another, was she to be left out? Did they talk about her behind her back? Her own sister would recite, Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all, while listening to all her tales of woe.
In the 1970’s she learned about the theories of victimization. She discovered that there were many types of victims, and the term was being used differently than ever before.
Identifying with the concept, she labeled herself as such. She embraced and readily shared her new self-proclaimed victim status.
“That is what was wrong with me. I have been victimized my entire life. How could I have not seen this before?”
And now, that she has found an answer to her sadness and her depression, she blames everyone who encounters her for making her angry or sad. It’s just never her fault.
Parental love is not guaranteed, my father was the one who could not see
For he believed he had no appeal and daughters forced that fact to be revealed
Sons would make him a manly man, satiating desires for his life plan
His approval could have filled that gaping hole, instead we shared a broken soul
So, with this mother, I endured. She allowed the world to work for her. She wouldn’t do simple things as she didn't possess tolerance for mundane chores. They were beneath her. She wouldn’t balance a check book, or drive a car, or shop for food, or clean her own home, or cook her own meals. There would always be someone to do it for her and place blame on that individual if something went wrong. That became her way of life and her rationale for lacking internal beauty.
With the years flying by she still held onto those good looks. She had a face lift in her 50’s to be sure that she carried that image for the next 30 years.
But one remarkable day as we were driving along the highway, she noticed the beautiful deep greens on the trees that surrounded the road. Her comment was the leaves are so beautiful. Surprised by her noticing something as simple as greenery, a true oddity for her, she continued, look at those flowers, they are so gorgeous and the sky, look how blue it is. I never saw such beauty before. Those phrases were repeated over and over, again and again.
From that day forward, she noticed the world around her. Her new perspective was both startling and wonderful, but equally sad. The discovery of simple beauty was at a very high price. While her judgment and senses and highbrow sense of self were waning, it signaled the failure of other systems. She could not taste delicious foods or smell a rose or remember that she has a new great grandbaby. Each moment was brand new, just like she liked her things. Nothing old, nothing repeated, up to the minute, fresh.
Each time we would go anywhere, she seemed to have acquired a new sense of beauty and appreciation. She embraced nature along with items she once turned her nose up at. She found beauty everywhere and in everything. She paid homage to all things great and small, natural, or unnatural.
Her memory started slipping further, and her behaviors became increasingly odd. She didn’t know how to use simple items or even understand their purpose; placing keys in the oven or using a tube of cortisone to brush her teeth. She lost the ability to understand her cell phone and eventually progressed to the point of not knowing who I was. Lashing out aggressively in deep frustration, with her words now gone, she could only express herself through primitive behaviors.
Perhaps nature was signaling to her as the end is near, see me, as we are one.
See me for who I am, for perhaps I am truly beautiful.