my mama's hands

Vicky Argenta, charcoal, 24" x 36", detail

Vicky Argenta, charcoal, 24" x 36", detail

In a way, we’re just turns of God’s kaleidoscope. Click and the show is over. The Beautiful is so vast, She never has to repeat Herself. Still, loss inhabits the silence following each turn of color, each fraction of His utterance.

Mother’s day is that silence for me. I feel Mom’s death sink in, and try to blot out the day by pretending it doesn’t apply to me. But the fact of my being alive ties me to my mother, and inevitably to this Day. I mourn while others celebrate. I was surprised to find that Mother’s Day was first a day of mourning.

In an article for National Geographic, Brian Hadwerk writes that Mother’s Day was born out of work clubs in the late 1800’s in which mothers tended children in need and mourned their war-fallen sons. Mother’s Day was a day of mourning and of working for peace. Later, Anna Jarvis used it to remember her mother’s work, and railed against the pluralization and commercialization of the day. She stressed its singularity. For better or for worse, there is one, irreplaceable being in this world that is your mother. I’ve had many other-mothers, to be sure. But that love is also singular, unique, radiant in and of its own self. Many are made to pay tribute to their step mothers rather than remind their fathers of the fact of their dead mothers.  Many are asked to go on, as if that singular uniqueness of Mom, never existed at all. Move on, they say, lest grief take a bite of you and swallow you whole.

For my part, the latter doesn’t work. Just as the fact of my being alive ties me to my mother,  that fact ties a piece of her to this world as long as I inhabit it. On Mother’s day: Fuck the cards and the flowers. Get real: It is one of the most important relationships on this earth. Mother’s Day, as Hawerk writes isn’t Mothers’ Day for a reason. It isn’t plural. So this Mother’s Day, I am going to mourn my fallen dead and bow to everything in me that she is and offer this up a kind of gesture to peace: the inside kind that gives open space for anything real and lasting between us. Rather than feel on the peripheries of today, I’m taking it back. Her death, like her life, was singular and defining.

My mother’s name is Vicky Argenta. She taught me how to see. How to touch clay as if it were a living being and listen to its secrets. She taught me how to love more than myself, how pain is a thing of the body, but the heart is stronger. She visits me in my dreams and tells me things. She is a whisper in the breads I cook from her recipes. She is sweet song in a certain cadence my voice carries. Sometimes she comes at night on a city street like a warning. She tells me when to flee, when to dig in my heels and fight, how to love three young women who have lost their mom, though I often wonder if my arms are wide enough. Or if they will come to trust their own enough to fly.  Because someday, they will soar and their beautiful, singular Danielle, will be with them and part of them all the while. 

My mom lives in me and she lives in her work here:

Vicky Argenta, charcoal, 24" x 36", detail

Vicky Argenta, charcoal, 24" x 36", detail

And here:

Vicky Argenta, charcoal, 24" x 36", detail

Vicky Argenta, charcoal, 24" x 36", detail

And here:

Vicky Argenta, charcoal,"24 x 48" 

Vicky Argenta, charcoal,"24 x 48" 

My mother knew how to be fierce and how to be soft, how to look far beyond her own situation, into her little girl’s eyes, and dare to wonder what she would face without her. She knew how to see within all things their inner substance, and let her hand follow it like a fragrance. My mother is the heart and soul of me, my flesh, and marrow. She is my greatest influence. My greatest loss. And a profound kind of power.