December 22nd, 2008
Loretta was a fashionable woman, even in her 70’s. She rose early in the mornings, and enjoyed sitting for an hour or two at her vanity with a collection of brushes, tubes, and powders, sipping coffee, and humming along to show tunes. I used to lay on her bed, with its orange and red Indian cover and mounds of tasseled pillows, listening to her talk about leaving home at 14 to become a vaudeville dancer. She never got famous, but she did get married. “Oh, that’s a whole other story, sweetheart, do you think this red is too red? I can’t decide.”
There were moments, watching her bejeweled and blue-veined hands play upon her face, or sweep dramatically through the air, that something in me shook loose from the roots of humanness. A feeling so expansive that it ached to break through human constraints.
It’s the rarest of all feelings. It’s more than love, and higher than compassion –- it’s wanting to burst into a body of light, leaving off the drag of time and the pain of humanness –- an excess of tenderness that aches to burst through the scratch and dent of words and other barriers.
For a moment, I wanted to set Loretta apart from the certainty of aging and death, and still the hands that slightly trembled. For just a moment, I wanted to free myself from the impending pain of another empty space, another lost connection which memory alone could never ease.
There have been other moments when love soared out of bounds. The day Elisabeth read poetry at her grade school in a whispered voice. Her words, so beautifully thought-out and deeply felt, flowed through the crowded auditorium and beat in my heart like a primitive drum. Mother-daughter, me-her: the most ancient and perfect of all loves. I wanted to lift her above the distracted crowd and the spattering of applause into some sort of sanctuary. Mother-daughter, me-her, a sacred bond.
There was a woman I knew only by her loss, and a want for justice that no one cared to serve.
There have been children who should have been loved by those who brought them into the world, but who tragically were not.
My own son, MacKenzie, seven years old and fresh from the shower, wearing a gap-toothed smile, and a razor nick on his chin from his first shave.
A once-upon-a-time lover, standing at the kitchen sink, lost in her own thoughts and smiling to herself for no apparent reason.
Friends and daughters, mothers and sons, lovers and near strangers –- rare moments when love eclipses even itself. I don’t know of anything holier, more sacrosanct, or perfectly human to celebrate.