... just when it seemed the accolades were over. Senior Center Forum May entry.
|“Mum?” Did my heart actually stop as that iron fist gripped it? Sudden pain knifed down my spine and out through fingers and toes; an unbearable prickling nearly lifting my scalp. A cold film of perspiration broke out of every pore as questions and wonder filled every cell of my brain in time with the increased speed of my heartbeats.
Another patron of the gallery backed into me, and I was brought back into the present with a jolt. The unreality of a painting of my mother as a young woman being here in this gallery at this moment left me breathless, hands shaking. It was so unexpected, seeing that beloved face again after so many years, although I could see the portrait had been inspired by the framed studio photo I'd had hanging in my Lounge room since its framing, many years ago. But how…? I'd have to puzzle that one out another time. I forced my mind away from memories that beloved face created; at least long enough to read the information plaque alongside the portrait.
Order of Australia medallist, Winifred Emma Graham, as a young woman.
This medal was granted in the Queen’s Birthday Honour List, 1995—
awarded for community service—in particular, ‘caring for sick and disabled children
and supporting their parents for 6,000 hours of voluntary service over 34 years at
the Adelaide Women's and Children's Hospital’.
“Mum?” This time the word came out of my mouth as a whisper on a long drawn-out sigh. I felt my eyes widen, my eyeballs feeling as though they surely 'stood out on the proverbial stalks'. But it was true. Look at that distinctive ‘widow’s peak’ hairline… and the kiss curl. The age-old rhyme ran through my mind –
There was a little girl, and she had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead,
And when she was good, she was very, very good,
But when she was bad, she was horrid.
Couldn't help a smile twisting my lips, lifting the corners of my mouth. Horrid? No. Not ever… to me. Or anyone else, as far as I know, and my eyes dwelt longingly on every detail of those soft brown eyes. A lifetime surely, since they had been focused on me with the full glow of my mother’s love. It had been that way since the first day we met, she always told me... and a tear hovered on the rim of each eye. The artist had captured the full warmth of that dedicated spirit with an enigmatic smile that seemed to say, “Don’t be a duffer. Of course I’ll always love you.”
Studying the portrait ever closer, my eyes swept over the perfectly waved hair. A Marcel wave? Hmm - made with hot irons. Eww! A scene from ‘Little Women’ crossed my mind — when Jo burnt a chunk of Meg’s hair completely off, shortly before a party. Wasn’t Jo left with hot iron in one hand and smouldering length of hair in the other? and an involuntary shudder rippled through me. The price of beauty, huh?
Is this truly the first time I registered the pearls she wears? It's bizarre. I have always loved pearls, too. I have the necklace that was my wedding present from my new hubby, Kanute, and the longer one with even larger and more softly luminous pearls that he gave me for our 20th wedding anniversary. But I don't have this necklace of my mother's… and I found myself unexpectedly wondering where it went.
My eyes flickered back to that information plaque about her award, and once again brimmed and this time overflowed, as I pictured that magical moment when this special lady had walked a red carpet in Government House, to be presented with the wondrous gold medal by the Governor of the day. Like a bride again, I whispered, and couldn't help a tremulous smile as I remembered her words —
“I really don’t know what all the fuss is about. I’m just an ordinary Mum.”