Creative Nonfiction by Linda Parsons
Digging in my drawer of ‘unmentionables,’ as ladies used to say, I thought an old camisole would work. Covid has taught me to make do or do without. I wasn’t about to lose my garden tomatoes to the birds’ swift strike, which opens them to wormy ruination. I had no netting and wanted to avoid the unmasked at Home Depot. The camisole might let in just enough light and deter the mockers. I tied the straps to the stake and tucked the ivory flow around ripening tomatoes, calling it a “princess slip,” what my grandmother called a fancy full slip. It was anything but fancy — cockeyed, splattered with rain and dirt — though startling at night, hung like the wedding pearls I no longer wear. Watching the camisole blousy in the summer heat, I thought of the great divide between mother and daughter. After leaving my mother for my father’s house, on the cusp of adolescence, I visited her several times a year, more guest than daughter. Always straightening everything as I had found it, as if I was never there. I was never the princess she longed to be — her dinner rings, high heels, makeup and teased hair — while still that barefoot girl with never enough. I never wanted or tried to be her kind of woman. I bloomed in secret, on the moon’s wane and amplitude, shattering the mirror held woman to girl. Once she asked a teenage me to lift my shirt so she could see what distance and time had done to us, my young fruits bursting. Years later, she made me stand at the same mirror to face her radical mastectomy, a lunarscape of sternum and rib. In the nursing home, in her last wane, she asks if we used to live together, if I love her a little bit. I didn’t realize you were so pretty, she says. I forgot that I forgot you. Both of us long past bloomtime, past even remembering our branching away. My mother, the hotheaded sun who split my seams almost to ruination — I, the pearl, unpolished in her eyes, the shy crescent moon slipping behind a cloud.