Sunday, May 12, 2013


By Rose Moore
Printed Mothers Day 2013 in Gazette Newspapers of Ohio

     Mom was more than just a doodler; she was a full-fledged artist who, as I would later learn, had been trained in many mediums. But as a youngster, I was familiar only with her pencil drawings on a porcelain tabletop.             My father was a railroad man who often put in overtime. When he was off on late-night runs, Mom would tuck us into bed and then wait up alone for him. Unbeknownst to any but my father, she spent those quiet hours with a charcoal pencil in her hand, drawing pictures on the smooth white porcelain surface of the table in our kitchen. By the time we children rose for breakfast at that table, she had washed the art away and we were none the wiser.
     Until... One night when I was still quite young, I tiptoed down and caught the "secret artist" in the act. From that time on, I often shared the masterpieces before they disappeared; they were magical to me.
     The little tabletop bore scenes of every kind: vignettes of life before and after motherhood; still-life presentations of sentimental objects; landscapes, often as simple as my father's old garage all fancied up in summer garb of climbing roses...
     On that simple table, my mother's own Virginia childhood emerged in fine detail in tidewater grasslands, backwater pools and country roadways dark with moss-draped oaks; her family's homestead cemetery neatly fenced in white; and southern farmstead scenes of work and sociability...
     Mom did fashion-sketches too, with graceful suits and dresses, stylish hats and finger-wave coiffures. I would later learn from her own photo albums, this was how my mother sometimes dressed when she was grown, before she was my mother
     And the faces! They were drawn from feeling, clear and recognizable, and the expressions true. I saw the time-worn skin and gentle smile of my mother's eldest brother; and my father, lost in thought as he rested against the handle of his garden spade; and Arlene, our friend and neighbor, tossing smiles and blooms and greetings from across the floral hedge that marked our properties. From those character drawings and many more, I could see the people through the eyes of the artist who drew and loved them.
     As my mother's family grew, her drawings appeared less and less often; there simply wasn't time. I was 14 when my father died. Mom was only 43 with lots of kids to raise, and it seemed to me her innate creativity was completely lost in grief from that day forward.
     But her tender images on porcelain never faded in my own museum of memory. Most cherished in my recollections of her art was an exuberant drawing of a young girl running fast between the fences along a dusty path, her face upraised in joy, her arms stretched up as if to capture in her hands a little plane, looking toy-like as it soared above her head. Who was that girl, I asked her, and she answered simply that the subject of her art was no one in particular---"just a girl who loved the airplanes."
     On a Sunday morning when I was older and a mom myself, I was piloting a little plane above my childhood home when my mother's pencil re-creation of "a girl who loved the airplanes" traced itself across my thoughts.
     Some years after that, I watched in awe the history-making first moon-walk. I called to ask my mother what she thought about it, and her words burst out with such exhilaration I was startled.
     "Do you realize," she asked, "how much has taken place since I was young---the amazing things I've seen in the not-so-many years since I was just a little girl! For me, to see a little airplane was a miracle! The few times I would hear one, I would run so far and fast to see it... I never once imagined we could travel into space or reach the moon and walk on it!"
     Until that moment, I, my mother's daughter, hadn't seen what should have been so clear to me: My mother's porcelain table---as my journals were and are to me---was where her heart set down its feelings. My mother was herself the little girl she'd drawn; the girl who loved the airplanes.