Mother Has a Secret- oh yes she did!

The story behind the image.

Posted on 26 July 2015 Under Collaginary

After my mother died, my siblings and I were going through the onerous and necessary task of clearing out her house. In that process, my sister found, tucked under shelf paper in a bureau drawer in her bedroom, a packet of letters.

The letters were on an attorney's letterhead, and they were addressed to a residence in Winston-Salem, NC where mother lived as she worked as a radiologic technician for Baptist Hospital. As we perused these letters, typed in the courier font, it became clear that Mother had been married prior to marrying our father. The letters confirmed the restoration of her maiden name following the divorce to this unknown man.

Our mother was married Before? Who could possibly tell us more? My mother was 87 when she died and there were few friends who may be able to shed light on this mystery- and luckily, her college roommate was still alive.

"Oh yes," Becky said," Your mother was married. I was there, her maid of honor, in the living room of her parents' house. He was a doctor, like your father, and was soon deployed to England."

"What happened?" I asked.

"It was sad. He wrote her a letter several months later and said the marriage was a mistake; it was a wartime marriage and perhaps they married in haste. Libby was in love with him, and it broke her heart." Becky pauses then says, " I don't know why she didn't tell you children about it."

Well, she didn't. Not a word. It wasn't until later I recall her saying to me that she had some secrets."Really," I said.

What we do know was that my mother apparently recovered from that heartbreak and soon after met my father in Winston-Salem on a blind date. They married, and were married for 49 years.

And yet, she kept those letters.

Learning to Read, The Last Minute and Ondine's Curse

One of my favorite compositions: Letra-set® type on acrylic. I use this image on my business card. Many people can remember exactly when they learned to read- when the letters congregated into words- words that you could recognize and speak! This image is about the moment before that recognition happens-on the verge of learning to read.

The second work, The Last Minute, will resonate with anyone who has worked under a deadline. This was the standard M.O. in design school where project deadlines and critiques hung like a guillotine blade- incisive and unforgiving.

Ondine's curse. Ondine was a water nymph in love with a mortal man. She gave up her immortality when she fell in love with him and bore him a child. He had promised, "Every waking breath will be a testament to my love for you." When he became unfaithful, she cursed him—if he ever fell asleep, his breath would be taken from him and he would die. Eventually, from exhaustion, the man did fall asleep. And he succumbed to the curse.

Ondine's Curse also refers to a rare neurological condition of disordered breathing. An injury to the brain stem can render one incapable of being weened from a mechanical ventilator.

What Dreams May Come

My mother called me one day to report that a small juvenile bird had fallen into her fireplace and was jumping frantically behind the glass doors. As a bird lover, it distressed her to see this young animal so panicked. She found an old linen napkin, opened the glass doors to the fireplace and draped the young creature. Exhausted, the little bird quieted down. Mother picked up the bird, napkin and all, and placed it on the front stoop of her house, removing the napkin and retreating indoors. The bird sat, stunned for a moment, then appeared to wake up and flew away.

At this time, my mother was ill and struggling with the idea of staying at home or moving to hospice–a move she eventually made. After she told me about the bird, I hung up the phone and burst into tears for it seemed this episode was the perfect metaphor for my mother, her illness and her home. Leaving home, her spirit leaving her body. I entitled the work: What Dreams May Come.

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