It was one of those rare departures from home, the kind only Doc seemed to be able to pull out of me.
Meandering with her through scenery previously only seen on TV, I relished the brief moment I could forget my entire life and just be a girl in a nice pair of jeans. No one really cared what I thought and we all nodded politely, except when that kid pissed me off with his republican shenanigans. (But that's another story.)
However, even travels to far away lands offer familiar moments. A ramshackle house, a long picnic table booming with food, much to drink and smart minds eager to speak. And as people drifted in and out of inlets and kitchens a friend and I found ourselves alone with another guest.
She was a New York sparrow. Looked delicate and cute, but was tough as nails, could survive anything and had.
It wasn't the champagne that loosened tongues and poured story into waiting ears. It was the story few of us got to tell.
Years ago, her mother fell ill. The Sparrow did what we had all done - picked up the reins of care. The slow and fast osmosis of changing places - from daughter to mother and from mother to daughter - began.
Soon taking a shower at the place the mother lived in was no longer an option. The tub insurmountable, the shower stall too small.
One day an opportunity arose for the mother to take a shower. The mother and the Sparrow were going to a home where there was a stall big enough to accommodate the mother's walker.
Could the Sparrow give her a shower? the mother asked.
Can you imagine having to ask your child to bathe you?
The Sparrow said of course. And then realized this shower would require her to be in the stall with her mother. It would be an intimacy never before exchanged between them.
It wasn't that they didn't like or love one another. They very much did. But there wasn't that warmth and physical affection so often seen on Leave it to Beaver. Or Father Knows Best. Or even Star Trek.
So she packed a swim suit so she could get in the shower with her mom.
When the time came, and the water poured and the mother was carefully situated, the Sparrow, snug in her suit stepped into the shower.
There is a moment with a parent where you see a sudden nakedness that
goes beyond skin and breasts and tufts of hair in quiet places... and
in that sudden moment our heart our soul our life no longer lives as
That child now lives in a rounded shoulder
or paper thin fragile skin a hand full of tremors the eyes tired and
resigned to the greater need to be cleaned. And along with that, a
desperation to not be humiliated in the process, a clinging to hope some
dignity could still clothe the soul...
... The Sparrow
looked at her swimsuit and wondered at the barrier she had placed
between this woman her mother and herself. She wondered what it was
about seeing her mother naked and having her mother see her naked at
this point in life. She was 60, her mother near 90. What was it that
had put the suit between them in the first place...
Slipping off her swimsuit, both of them now naked in this shower, she began gently soaping her mom.
they started to laugh and weep and laugh and weep and laugh until there
was no difference between the tears pouring from shower heads and those
from brokenhearted eyes.
Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
-- Charles Wesley
MY PRIVATE CONEY presents IT WAS HER NEW YORK, the short stories that accompany the work-in-progress video and photo collection of the same name (myprivateconey.com - media link - IT WAS HER NEW YORK). The stories and the media explore the tender rubble that holds both my mother, Florence's and New York's soul as one disappears into old age and the other into gentrification. All are real observations and/or experiences with very little tall-tale telling.
Except when it makes the story better.
Please visit myprivateconey.com for additional information and sample works.