My Mom died 30 years ago today. She has been dead more than half of my lifetime. I’m at a loss for a word to describe this. It’s not inconceivable, not really unbelievable, no longer unfair or unjust. It’s just un-Mom. It’s grief — interminable, but suppressible.
Ernestine Hinton loved all kinds of fabric. She frequented fabric stores, buying yards of cloth she liked, which she piled in an out-of-the-way corner solely to paw through, no specific project in mind. She loved sensual materials like satin, silk and velour. She loved color and was happy to put colors next to each other that some might call daring. When she remodeled the house — transformed it, really — she brought together golds, yellows, reds, greens, sage and Chinese lacquer, all unified by a carpet that might have pleased Jackson Pollack, a studiously patternless palette of color blotches that gave every first-time viewer pause.
Ernestine was a natural hostess, welcoming everyone with such genuine charm. She wanted you to be comfortable but never complacent and she trusted you to know the difference.
Out and about, she spoke to people most others ignore, extending courtesy to everyone equally. She worked to improve the lives of many and was outraged by those who did the opposite. She did not suffer fools. She would be appalled by the churlishness and pettiness of modern politics. And she would be overjoyed to see Obama as president.
She preferred to be called Teen, but I could only call her Mom, or in occasional shock, Mother! And shock me, she did. She was her own woman and expected to be accepted as such. In conversation, she was alive and witty. She could turn a deft phrase to knock you off your feet and then pick you up and dust you off and make sure you were still OK. She was brilliant.
Although Teen was a feminist role model before that concept emerged, she loved being a mother and loved children without reserve. There was nothing more important or valuable than nurturing children. We make our future by teaching our children and by loving them.
Mom taught me to love quick wit, language and laughter. She taught me to despise ignorance, the root of hatred and most of the ugly things we do to each other. She taught me empathy and compassion and patience. She taught me to speak out when I see the emperor has no clothes. She believed everyone’s life would be improved by a little more gentle affection, even between strangers. She was kinder and more gracious than I’ll ever be. Many people and events have shaped me; she did it first and gave the world what there is to work with.
Before she died, Mom told Mer she knew I’d be angry about her death for a long time. I’ll never stop being angry about that — she deserved a long life as much as anyone else — though I do better understand the burden of anger after all these years. Anger is a poor memorial. She deserves better. peace, mjh
Cue Dave Carter’s “When I Go.” (He’s dead, too.)
mjh’s Blog: Cut (2004)