“Have you seen Mouse?” I could just make out the shape of her shoes. The woven slightly darker than tan braided leather slip on dress moccasins, the shimmery knee highs that encased her regularly bare skin. Her voice dripping with longing as she searched for the one other person in the room that knew how badly she wanted to rip those leggings and fancy shoes off. The daughter that knew her in ways that both placated and terrified her.
“She’s around here somewhere Nance.” My mother’s mother being anything but mothering, so everything she’d known her to be. I sat there beneath the gauzy red organza that draped the Christmas serving table. The smell of rye crisps, pickled fish, salmon loaves, briny olives and gingery, molasses cookies, big plump black olives impaled on each of my digits, my white blonde hair in a swatch over one of my green eyes as I bent my fingers and choreographed the greatest all olive musical, of all time.
Mouse. Her name for me. She called me that for how quietly I moved, how gently I spoke, how afraid I was when people moved close to me. Mouse. That was me. A five year old hiding under a holiday table, olive show at my fingertips, intoxicating aromas of caraway, and powdered sugar coated cookies, too much scotch and the stench of expensive perfume. Those braided shoes slipped beneath my hiding table as my mother picked at the smorgasbord of her family’s Swedish delights and sweat the truth. The truth of how we didn’t belong but had to be brought in to make for a proper holiday show.
I could smell her fear and how it was woven into bits of her history that had her standing as tall as her broken frame would allow, searching for me as I hid from the life she spent years running from. Her mouse stealing bits of food and watching from under a table as she stumbled around in awkward shoes and fake smiles. My hiding another punishment for her. Her parents frowning and shaking their judgment filled heads as their disappointment of an eldest daughter searched for her second child, from her second marriage, alone. Her mouse. The girl she built. The girl she dug her heels into. The girl that would never scurry under a table again…
I think of her today
The clink of peaty saturated ice cubes
The smell of hope I get with each whiff of cheap leather, sweaty nylon and tuffs of exhaled anxiety…
I can only hope she can see and find me now
Hear me over the rumble of what should have been.
Thank you Mom
Thank you for being so fearful that you inspired me to run…
Come out from the cover of what should have been
Sink my teeth into the flesh of what comes next