Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Learning From Mom

I Still Cant Fold Fitted Sheets by cogdogblog
She wasn't sure how to grieve. It was a new thing to her, sudden, shocking, unfamiliar--an exotic kind of earthquake that came without an alarm. 

She stared at the cookbook, raking her fingertips across her eyebrows again and again, as if that would help her make sense of the recipe. "2 teaspoons baking soda." Baking soda? Does that have anything to do with Coca Cola, or Pepsi? She opened up the refrigerator and prodded among the molding leftovers, shifting the remains of Mrs. Parker's casserole and stacking Mrs. Wassman's pecan brownies on top of Mrs. Smith's untouched fruit salad. No baking soda. She slammed the door in frustration and realized that she didn't even want to Google the question. Actually, she hadn't gotten on the internet in three days. That's a record.

Three days ago, normal became a thing of the past. Everyday mornings, everyday coffee, everyday bickering, everyday chores, everyday studies, everyday hugs, everyday laughter, everyday eating, everyday car rides, everyday walks through the woods, everyday game nights, had all become the hazy and broken chords of theme music to another story that she was no longer living. 

Mom. Gone. Gone for good. And it hit her again and she crumbled onto the couch and felt like doing nothing for a thousand years. 

She'd never be able to ask her now; never ask her where her clothes were, never ask her if the car was free, never ask her if she approved of the liberal agenda or what the meaning of life really was. She'd never be able to learn what made Mom Mom. Never learn what she could do to be more like her. She wished she knew how to grieve. She would have asked Mom, if she could.

Her heart jumped as the dryer buzzed a long and insistent command. It was time to get the sheets out before they wrinkled. 

She hated folding sheets, especially the fitted ones. Those were like some unusual implement of torture designed just for inept homemakers. She pulled a cream-colored wad out of the gaping jaws of the dryer, luxuriating for a moment in the cozy warmth, then stared at the incomprehensible corner seams and the elastic edging that seemed to mock her. Mom would know how to do this. I would ask her.... 

Then a thought--the first clear thought she'd had in what seemed like weeks--crept through a crack in her brain and sent her flying to the linen closet, the one in her parents' bathroom. Dad's bathroom. She opened the door and stared at the neat piles of red, white, pink-and-blue spotted, and forest green quilts and towels. Jerking out a crisp square of cloth from the top shelf she almost brought the entire assortment of linens down on her head, but came away with the closet mostly intact. 
Folded by ammgramm
There was the fitted sheet. Clean, slightly mussed, but beautifully folded in that magical way that she was sure only her mother could do. She took it back to the laundry room on shaky knees and laid it out on the folding table. With ginger fingers she opened it up until it turned into a rectangle. Then she opened up the two edges like wings, and made a mental note. Working backwards she discovered a symmetrical semi-circle of cloth, generous layers of elastic corners nestled into one another so sweetly. She began now to unfold, noting the inside and outside seams, memorizing the sequence of steps, until the whole fresh white sheet billowed around her like a comforting angel. 

She refolded it--slowly and clumsily. She had to go back more than once, smooth out her eyebrows, try again. But after a few minutes it was finished. Then she turned to the cream-colored sheet, now a hopeless mass of wrinkles, and began the process again, murmuring cues under her breath, anticipating the next movement, working in a rhythm. The result wasn't very good. She unfolded it; tried again.  

Half an hour later it was finished and a neat, creamy square sat placid beside the white one. There was no dinner on the table, no biscuits as she had planned, but there were these sheets. Mom's sheets. It wasn't much, but it was a little, tiny something.

I Still Cant Fold Fitted Sheets, a photo by cogdogblog on Flickr.
Folded, a photo by ammgramm on Flickr.

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