What I remember: We always had a hammock. My father would hang it between two trees. In Colorado, when there were no trees close to the house, he built a shelter with logdepole pines and strung two hammocks side by side beneath it. One was a brightly-hued string hammock from Mexico, the other, a closed-in canvas hammock with mosquito-net windows, from his army days stationed in Recife, Brazil.
This one, though, was in Woodstock, where there were plenty of trees. My mother was always the beauty, far more beautiful than I. I saw her that way, always. Her grace. Her loveliness. She had a quietness about her and a gentleness. A calm that sustained and soothed me.
We were thick as thieves from the start. The fact of my birth never really separated us completely, I think. We were connected, almost twinned from the start, to the point where we didn't need words to communicate. She used to complain that when I was a toddler and new people would come to visit, they would always think I hadn't yet learned to talk, because I would only take her hand and say "Mum?"
But what was really happening was that I was asking her what I needed to know, and she was answering, silently, letting me know whether to trust or mistrust, whether they were "our kind of people" or not.
As adults, our differences have become apparent. We are not alike. In her, her father's Dutch fastidiousness, his practicality and stoicism and attention to detail took precendence over the melodrama and languid glamour of her French mother. Whereas I am a curious amalgamation of my French grandmother's addiction to style, my Mexican father's high temper and wandering heart, the fierce individualism of my anthropologist great-aunt, and my mother's allergy to melodrama. Where she is practical, I am impulsive. Where she is fastidious, I am disordered. She wakes long before the first birds begin to sing in the dawn, while I was a night owl even from the womb. Still, we were joined at the hip from the get-go, twinned somehow in the soul.
My mother was a jeweler and a poet, a tomboy and rebel. She was never what people expected her to be. These days, after some rough seas in my early adulthood, we are the best of friends once again. She is an artist, a fly fisherman, and a world-traveler...still fiercely independent yet curiously naîve, still athletic and adventurous, still paving her own road. She is my hero, and would be me role model...though I know I am not made of the stuff as she.
This photo speaks volumes for me. I can only hope that my relationship with my own daughter might approach the quiet joy and wonder of my relationship with my mother.
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