I just came back from my weekly shopping trip to Krogers. Wednesday is Senior Discount Day, 5% off total puchase for seniors aged 60 and over. With our new Super Krogers in Oak Ridge, going to Krogers is not just a simple trip to the grocery store anymore either, but rather, an expedition to Wonderland, where every kind of consumer good imaginable is on colorful and seductive display.
Ever since it opened on June 29th, I've found myself wandering around Super Krogers in a stupor, idly looking at and fingering this and that: margarita glasses, shower curtains, socks, drink dispensers, ugly bric-a-brac, office supplies, etc.
And so today, while I was mindlessly exploring the women's apparel department, I had an unexpected encounter. As I came around a corner, I came face to face with a little bitty silver haired woman wearing purple leggings, black patent leather clogs, a tee shirt emblazoned with a green fluorescent skull, and insanely long, green rhinestone earrings. My first fleeting impression was, "Hmmm, she looks kind of interesting. I wonder who she is."
But as her movements mirrored mine, I did a double take. "Oh my God," I thought. "THAT'S ME!" Then I started laughing. I was looking at my own reflection in a floor to ceiling mirror. And I want to tell you, I felt really happy at that moment. Why?
Because it was a joy to discover that I finally liked my own reflection! It's about time. It only took me about 62 years.
I was a fat and asthmatic little girl. Being the fattest girl at Elm Grove Elementary School worried me considerably. "Mother," I would ask, "Am I as fat as Andrea?" Mother would look me up and down appraisingly and then say, "Yes."
In the 5th grade, I took a sudden growth spurt and became skinny, but I also got pimply and my face seemed to grow ahead of the rest of me, not in an attractive way either. My mother fretted over my 'horse face' and took me to Dr. Mills. And my sister, Anita, ever the wit, used to cat call, "Don't trip on your face" as I retreated up the steps.
I remember one painful afternoon with my mother when I was 12. We were in her bedroom alone. I was trying on a new dress. It was deep, wine colored cotton with white piping around the neck and three quarter length sleeves. I stood in front of her full length mirror while Mother stood next to the bed, appraising my appearance. "Oh Martha," she finally said, "You're so ugly I'm worried about you."
Like every teen aged girl, I spent hours gazing at myself in the mirror, trying to divine what other people saw when they looked at me. Standing sideways: are my breasts big enough? Sucking my belly in: do I look fat? Dabbing Clearasil on my pimples: do I look like a pizza face? Parting and combing my hair this way and that: will anyone ever love me?
I never heard my mother say those three little words, "I love you." Not until after my father died. And she only said them then because I said them first. I was 46.
But Mother found it easy to say, "You are so despisable." Not despicable, with a 'C' mind you, but in her Sugar Tree dialect, 'despisable' with a long 'z' sound. She said it often, though she didn't 'say' it so much as spit it out, as if something nasty were on her tongue. I suppose it was nasty. 'Bitter hatred' is, after all, a cliched phrase in the English language.
Honestly, this blog has taken an unexpected direction. I don't like 'pity parties' as my mother disparagingly called all complaints and lament. Nor do I like whiners. But this most certainly is not a lament. No, no, no. On the contrary, it's a celebration!
For at age 62, after a lifetime of dieting, dying my hair, applying make up with a trowel, and on a gut level feeling repulsive and apologetic for the face and body that were so ugly they worried my mother, I'm happy to report that today, I liked the looks of that silver haired little woman in the mirror. I was drawn to her. She looked like my kind of person, someone I might even like to be friends with.
As a post script to all of this, I would tell my readers that my mother was not well. She was deeply unhappy and it was her talent to make others unhappy. And she didn't despise me all of the time. Sometimes I think she loved me, at least a little bit. I did love her and I still do. I hope she finally found some happiness on the other side. R.I.P. Mother.
Be Well and Good Luck