On this Mother's Day, in 2012, I can't help but think of the time when I was seven years old, standing in the cold basement of our Lincoln, Nebraska home, staring at the picture of a little girl on the cover of a sewing pattern. The girl was wearing corduroy overalls with a big pocket on the front.
"I hope you are going to make me that," I said.
You looked at me then began sorting through a box full of old material -- cast-offs from tia's job as a seamstress at the curtain and linens factory. The box also contained plastic bags of mystery material you bought at Goodwill. I loved the mystery bags because they were sure to have cloth more interesting than the flowers and stripes intended for bedspreads.
"Mija, no. Not today. Today we are going to make you a dress," you said. You put your hands on your knees. Your hands usually flew wildly about, accentuating everything you said. But when they went stationary, fixed, clasped on knees or fingers folded into each other – I knew then you had said your peace, and would say no more.
You took a look at another pattern that I hadn't noticed in front of you and then you selected a light purple cotton material from the box. As you pulled it out I could hear the wonderful rustling of long piece of fabric.
"It's beautiful!" I yelled as I ripped it from your hands and whirled it around. I eagerly got out scissors and straight pins. I loved the whistling sound of sharp scissors cutting starched cotton material and the sound of you humming softly as you cut the carefully pinned pattern.
You worked on the dress all night, much past my bedtime. From my room I saw the light on, illuminating the small opening under my door. In the morning, the smell of freshly starched clothes hung in the air. I stumbled to the door, and as I wiped sleep from my eyes, I felt on the knob the cool metal of a wire hanger: it was my little dress all pressed and new!
"Are you up? Hurry now, or you are going to be late." You were up early to make sure I was on time. I looked another time at the lacy purple dress. The cloth was soft and inviting, the buttons were carefully placed, and secured tightly with string.
"I love you Mamá."
You smiled and kissed me lightly on the forehead.
"Yes, mija," you said in a soft Spanish tone that I would recognize for the rest of my life as a sign that you cared for me.
There were other things that required your special talent – curtains, loose buttons and long pants needing an inch or two taken down or up – but because you were raising five children and working two jobs it just so happened that the dress was the last thing you made for me.
On this Mother's Day, I reminisce about that purple dress. About those cold winter nights, you hunched over the machine with lace between your delicate fingers and your long black hair up off your neck. I remember the patterns spread across the floor and your nimble eyes watching and turning the fabric creating, as if by magic. Transcending earth and heaven, all for me. I remember the feel of the straight pins secured at my waist, and how I used to stagger around with a shirt that only had one finished sleeve. The memory reminds me, Mamá, how lucky I am to have had you in my life. And how now, as then, you are the most remarkable person I know.
Con todo mi cariño,
E. B. Román
E.B. Román's first novel, Aysel's Arrow about a young Mexican-American woman navigating family and love, is now available at Amazon.com.