So I walk into the house, I’m 10, and the first thing I see is a pair of bare legs on the inside of a closed window and the rest of the body isn’t in the apartment. I’m praying to God whoever it is doesn’t fall, the soapy glass prevents a clean identification of the person sitting on the outside sill, but I kind of figure it’s my mother by the unmistakable fluffy sky blue slippers dangling from her toes. Now I’m flipping out because I’m scared of heights. She’s four stories up, 50 feet smack over the concrete backyard. My heart’s outside my chest doing a Mexican Bean dance on my T-Shirt. Finally an arm starts swirling away the soapy water and I see Mom’s face through the glass and she smiles at me. I love that smile, and for a brief moment, I was not frightened for her I was just amazed at how hard she worked to keep our small apartment clean.
When I was boy right through my teens, if I was away a day or longer from the house she’d surprise me and clean my room like something out of a movie. It looked so good I thought I was in Beaver Cleaver’s bedroom. This blew my mind, I’d run through the apartment and grab my mother and kiss her over and over and shower her with thank yous. All Mom said while I tackled her, “Watch my head, I don’t like people touching my head.”
This morning, I washed ten windows, five storms windows and two screens. When I got to my daughter’s room that’s when Mom’s spirit swept through me, I felt it, I felt her, and she made several passes. As I cleaned my daughter’s space (dusted the knick-knacks, too) Mom stayed with me for two hours and I began to feel the love and enjoyment she experienced doing this for me countless times many years ago. Doing something she was good at with her whole heart. Mom knew she had maternal limitations; she was a street kid who never grew up, an urban Peter Pan smoking a Marlboro with a bump-up hairdo and a High Ball drink, neat. But with the mothering tools she had, she gave totally with humor and unconditional love.
As a dad, I’m no Ward Cleaver. Nope, I’m restless, pushy and jump the gun a lot, and this drives my daughter cuckoo. I wish I could control it but I’m not adopted, and if you spent quality time with my parents you’d know I’m a dysfunctional family car accident survivor. I know my paternal limitations and I give my best with the skills I have to express love to my daughter. I make things for her: dioramas, cards, photo books with stories, whatever I can to extract a smile. Once in a blue moon, I’m able to patch my patience together and clean the dusty house around my records, books, papers, photos, Dad’s art, and sports junk.
This morning, thinking about my daughter while I polished my mother’s bone china pieces and her Aries statute, behind me I felt that same smile I saw through the soapy window when I was 10.