Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Mothers Day 2020

Michael Sedano

I knew by the ring my mother was calling, I hear a certain urgency in her bell even though all phones sound the same. I pick up immediately. Direct and to the point, no "hello," doesn't wait for me to say it. Her voice fills my ear with, "How are you?"

Already it's been nine years that my mom and I spent the early morning hours in her hospital room, her breathing the only sound, but not her breathing, not like I recognize her bell, her timbre "how are you?" Labored raggedy holding on autonomic energy breathing, I heard nothing of her in those breaths. All night, then just as the sun begins its ascent, nothing at all. Mom's silence sat with me in that room.

As my mother's health started its steep decline, her world turned almost completely inward. Outside my Dad's Dream House, in the lath house he'd built, her epiphyllums thrived, then waned when the caretaker didn't.

I took a set of photographs for her. She shuffled through the stack of letter-size prints with a joy born of their glorious presence. She'd thought never to see her epiphyllums bloom again, and she held a semblance in her hands.

When she moved to Pasadena with Barbara and me, I brought mom's epiphyllum collection to live here, near her. She wasn't mobile and didn't get out in the garden, but she knew they were out there. I relocated her front porch plants to Pasadena. Every time we went out for a doctor's appointment, she came home to the same potted succulents she'd lived with back in Redlands. "We're home!" she'd announce happily.

We never celebrated Mothers Day at my house. My Dad was madly in love with my Mom but Dad was not the romantic type. Truth be told, she proposed to him. She was fifteen and a half and needed to escape that step-father.

My grandmother and her sisters kept epiphyllums. The plant is my mother's connection, and mine, to the women of our line, going back to who knows when the first hembra got captivated by the incredible beauty of this plant? Hybridizers give the world the fantastic colors and shapes of spectacular epiphyllums. The proto-epi is white or red, as I understand it. At any rate, the earliest memory of a flower in my head is a red epiphyllum with subtle espinas. I woulda been at least three when I got bit the first time, my Gramma looking on, smiling at my education.

The collection at Casa Sedano combines my mother's plants with the heritage collection grown in George Giffen's familia. When the Giffens relocated to the Pacific Northwest they left their plants in my care pending their re-relocation. They're mine, but they're George's, too.

Here is a gallery for my Mom, of the flowers she would have seen on Mothers Day 2020. We would have talked about the colors and shapes, the epi show at the Arboretum, the naturalized cacti at San Diego's Presidio park, our visits to nurseries and arboretums, the flowers we'd see at the Orange Show or the Pomona Fair. We had our memories.

"How are you?"

Why haven't I called or written?

I know you're busy doing all the interesting and exciting things you do. Important things.

She doesn't have to say it, but sabes que, I say it. You would have, Mom. With the chance, a different start, you would have accomplished what you wanted for me. Oh, Mom, you would have enjoyed doing what you made possible for me.


That's when I woke up, with the sound of my Mother's voice loving me and holding me accountable for all those questions and more. Yes, how am I? Mom, you'd be proud no matter what, but yes, I'm doing fine, I think.

"I know, mi'jo" she responds.

Echinopsis. A White Echinopsis was Mom's favorite cactus blossom.

Memory • Mothers Day Poetry
Forgotten That She Forgets
Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin

Chabela doesn’t grieve over lost things.
No longer cries out, “Los niños,
where are the kids?
Y, donde esta mi Elias?
Mis zapatos, where are my shoes?”
She’s forgotten that she forgets.

Ma, Chabelita passed 2018 age 100 7 months. 
Dad, Elias died in 1982 
She doesn’t miss her dentures,
or her metal-framed eyeglasses,
her hearing aids and her family ring
of multi-colored birthstones that
represents each of her five children.

She dusts the picture frame with the tall man
in the Civilian Conservation Corp uniform.
Who is he? “I feel so damn sad when I look
at him.” Throws the picture away to ease
the hurt but quickly takes it out of the trash
and snuggles in bed with the picture.

She puzzles at the gifts of a sweater,
a pair of pedal pushers, and a blouse
that her niece sent her from Santa Clarita.
She runs her spindly veined hand
over the soft sweater and plays with its
pearl buttons. With pleasure, she sniffs
the fluffy wool sweater, inhales the scent
of the cardboard gift box, then plays
with the crinkly tissue paper.

At night she makes a pillow of her new
sweater and sleeps easier than usual.
Her sweater pillow keeps her from
sun downing in the middle of the night
down the halls of the residence where
her every move is filmed on a video.

In the morning, Chabela is surprised at the fuzzy
sky blue sweater draped over the top of her head.
It nests on her gray curls like a contented kitten.
She forgets most things in the morning.
But her fashion sense is still with her.
She insists that her colors match when the care
giver at Jasmin Terrace dresses her.

Chabela prefers turquoise blouses
and white well pressed pants.
She insists on long-sleeved shirts
to cover the itchy scabs
on her lower arms. “Where do my
skin tears come from?” she wonders.
She’s learned to skillfully maneuver the walker
when she leaves her bedroom. But she
often wears mismatched slip-on shoes.

She forgets where the gifts come from.
Each one a Pandora’s box that releases a flood
of memories of birthday parties, cakes, ice cream,
and squealing kids diving after piñata candy.
Wrapped gifts conceal memories, good and bad.
Sometimes they release shrouds of melancholy
that engulf her like a rebozo of grief.

The caregivers call her Mamá Chabelita. They’re used
to her reveries. They’re used to her changing moods.
One minute she jokes in Spanish and in the next she
stares off in space lost in the abyss of another time.
Maybe it’s the dementia or anti-depressant that takes
the edge off her confusion or maybe it’s the way she
finds joy at the sight of such simple things as
orange confetti Jell-O with mini pink marshmallows
and vanilla ice cream plopped on top.

Her years of teen dancing with her sisters, Blanca and
Chicki at the dance halls on Central Avenue and Main
give her the jump and jive spirit to find pleasure
in the daily music recitals in the resident social lounge.
Monday, it’s Elvis impersonators. Tuesday, it’s Frank Sinatra
sing along. Wednesday, and Fridays it’s Spanish guitar.
And Sunday it’s soul music with Little Blues Man.
Her faint memories of the black jazz joints and the Chicano
bebop of the Armenta Brothers of the 1920’s perk
up her loneliness back in room 213 floor 2 by the elevator.

The surprise gifts that Chabela receives on her birthdays,
and on Mother’s Day give her nostalgia.
They are the saudade of yearnings for her husband,
the parties, and the kids. She can’t quite remember
them exactly, but way down deep, Chabela knows
something very big is missing in her life.

Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin

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