A Hairbrush for the Generations

There was a child raised on a farm in Iowa during the Depression who sold apples on the corner as her classmates walked by. She was intelligent and skipped two grades of school. Perhaps that helped her humiliation. She vowed never to marry a farmer.

But she did marry a farmer, a handsome farmer 12 years older than she. They met when she stopped to ask directions to the one-room schoolhouse where she was to teach.

Mom, young adult

She was 21 and had taught at one-room schoolhouses since she was 19. Or was it 18? She believed she would never get married – all those freckles and that red hair.

The marriage was difficult, not a lot of fun for her or her silent husband or their two children. After the children went to college, she returned to school and renewed her teaching certificate. Then she taught for decades – special education and third grade. Her students loved her. Her daughter, i.e. me, could never figure that out.

She died at age 96 on the next to the last day of 2013. A few days ago she spoke through a medium to ask her daughter’s forgiveness, i.e. mine, for being stubborn, for being unable to express her emotions (caused by her own emotionally deprived upbringing), for having always to be the one who was right (caused by immense insecurities), for her jealousy (regarding her silent husband), and for being a difficult mother. She said she was sorry for being such “a pain” to me and others, and explained why she was as she was. I was stunned.

I wrote a blog months ago titled “I Never Saw My Mother Cry.” The medium said there were tears in her eyes and she just wanted to hug her.

Whatever you, reader, think of mediums or life after death or “other worlds” there is a realm where thoughts, history, and knowing collect and seem to be able to realign. Whether it is an individual or collective unconscious that has little to do with the deceased, ESP, or uber-intuition I don’t know, but I know this realm exists, though I’m not going to go into the personal detailed things my mother told the medium to “prove” to her and me that it was she.

I didn’t need an apology from my mother. She was long ago forgiven and has long been loved. But in appears that she needed to ask my forgiveness even so, and I felt her emotional release afterwards and have felt her happy warmth since. She feels like a little girl, finally allowed to dance, who is making up for lost time.

HairbrushIn her emotionally frozen and somewhat materially-deprived life as an adult, my mother had certain things that mattered. One was a toiletries set that included a hairbrush, mirror, comb, and glass jar for face powder. The mirror and comb are gone but I snatched the brush and jar, cherishing them as sweet pretty things that were always on the chest of drawers in their bedroom. The set had always been incongruous to me in that harsh emotional landscape where people were isolated from each other, and I treasured it.

Last night after my five-year-old granddaughter soaked in the bathtub and got the playground dirt off her knees and feet and her fine golden hair washed, she used the brush. The soft bristles didn’t hurt her.

She used it again this morning. I purred inside.

“I look so beautiful.”

“Yes, my precious love, you do.”

When we see the photographs of destruction in war zones, there are often photos of a doll, a stuffed toy animal, a piece of china, a framed photograph against the wreckage. That one thing tells us of the life that was, the warmth and caring, and tender things of everyday life – or what everyday life is meant to be, where we love each other and express it. The tragedy, the loss, is shown in the contrast – and we the viewers don’t know if those lives are recoverable or if the people are dead or wounded beyond recognition. Refugees perhaps?

My mother’s life seems in this strange unidentifiable realm to be recovered, at least through me and for me. She needed to apologize for her sake, to let me know that she – wherever she is – could unfreeze emotions and realign them into fluid love for the sake of healing – hers and perhaps mine. I don’t know how this works, but it does. I may be stunned, but I do embrace.

And my granddaughter knows I love her “bigger than the whole universe” and that the brush belonged to her Gramma Belle, and that she and the brush are beautiful. Very beautiful.