Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Yellow (11/12/09)
By Sherrie Jackson
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ADD TO MY FAVORITES
My mother was sitting in her garden when these words escaped her. Though she had shears and wore thick, lightly soiled gardening gloves, her flowers were immaculate, bursting with life and color.
I knew the exact dress. It was a perennial favorite, a timeless cut, perfect for long summer days. In it she had whirled across ballrooms on Saturday nights; hosted tea parties for her old sorority sisters; and photographed the Forum on a Mediterranean cruise. There was no wonder she loved the dress, for it was a perfect match for her personality, and as I sat in the freshly mowed grass with her this day it became quite clear to me. She was like the sun. And no one ever believes the sun will be snuffed out in their lifetime.
“You know the one I’m talking about?” she asked now.
“Of course, Mom.”
She was sixty-two, and didn’t look it. Her hair, though graying, still hung long and her face was fresh and nearly clear of wrinkles. All my life she had been on the go, bustling from one activity or appointment to the next, complaining good-naturedly when my slow feet got to be a drag. Daddy always looked on her in marvel. He enjoyed a good snooze in his lounger. He had passed away four years earlier, just after their anniversary, when they dined at an out-of-the-way Italian place, my mother wearing that yellow dress.
“It’s hanging in the back of my closet, by the shoe organizer.”
“Do we have to talk about this?” I asked.
I wished she would finish playing at tending the flowers so that our day could progress. Birthday party at two o’clock, concert at the symphony hall at seven, maybe Chinese takeout from the late-night joint we’d patronized for years. My mother never slowed down, and perhaps, if no one stopped her, she never would.
“We’re not talking about it. I’m just letting you know, princess.”
The mention nonetheless aggravated a fresh wound. My mother was slated to die on the first of December. She would be given a gentle injection and would rest next to Daddy in Oakwood Cemetery. I would have a parentless Christmas.
Perhaps if she had won some global award, or cured a disease, or discovered a life-sustaining planet. Won a seat in the Legislature or at least marched for a politically acceptable cause. Perhaps then they would have allowed her ten, fifteen more years, prodding softly for another landmark contribution. But, no, my mother spent her life raising a family, loving her fellow man, bringing sunlight to people suffering in shadows. Doing the best with what she had. Refusing to believe well-organized lies. And so sixty-two was it.
I hadn’t been a good daughter. I wasn’t made of light as she was. My moods often made me forget how precious a mother’s love is. Yet she never treated me as anything less than a perfect child, the only one she would have. I suppose I should have been grateful they gave us six months’ notice. I had time, then, to be a better person for her.
“We should get going,” I said, taking one of her gloved hands in mine. “We can still be early.”
“Not to worry. Your Aunt Ellen will always be later than we are.” We giggled together.
We lived in a strange, cruel world. Technological innovation surrounded us with an artificial sheen, outpacing the prophecies of even the most hopeful science-fiction; yet the human element had all but turned to ashes in the wake of such unfeeling power. While many people enjoyed our advanced society, countless more still wallowed in fetid earth and died young and alone, ever unsure as to what their meaning on this earth could have been.
And constant attempts to control and streamline Man led to the early release of those who refused to play the game of the unjust.
I supposed I, too, would never see sixty-three.
I buried my mother in her yellow dress. The sun did not shine that day.
In the following years I would dream of her as a proud dandelion, arching sweetly against a sapphire sky, and I knew that her hopes of joy after this life were not in vain. Though I often woke with tears on my face, I could not be terribly sad because I knew she was happy, and she was yellow, and she was free.
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