I was only five when I sat at the edge of the bed watching my Mom getting ready to go out dancing.
It was the seventies, with flair bell-bottoms and polyester at its height in fashion and I knew she was set to party and dance because she was wearing her butterfly outfit.
It was a white polyester pantsuit with a halter underneath. Butterfly rhinestones and gems were sewn into the pants and on the jacket, and when I saw Mom wearing her butterfly outfit I knew she was ready to have a good time.
She’d go down the street to the local dance club with their multicolored lit up glass boxes on the dance floor that I would grow to dance on many years later when visiting Kentucky.
I sat on the bedside watching her doll herself up for the big night out. A night to be spent with her girlfriend who also had seven kids she was leaving at home, for them to take care of each other, while they, the divorcees, danced till sunrise on one of their few girls night out.
They were in search of men cool enough to want to dance with, or date, divorced ladies with seven kids in the 70’s.
To this day, these two ladies are best friends, only now, widows, and still they talk of finding “salty old dogs.” Their parties and dancing days are slower, fewer and possibly more meaningful.
I sat on the bed, watching Mom perched in front of the vanity mirror, brushing color into her cheeks and painting her lips a soft red before blotting them onto a Kleenex. In the rapture of her beauty I was suddenly overwhelmed with great sadness. As she combed the nape of her hair, I said,
“Mom, when you die, I’m gonna die, too.”
She turned around quicker than a cat pouncing a mouse,
“My Lord, Krista, why would you say such a thing? I’m only going dancing with Bertille. I’ll be back later tonight, Baby Girl.”
“Oh, I know,” I said, “I just know that when you die I’ll die, too, because I’ll miss the smell of your pillow.”
She smiled and turned around to finish her make-up and said,
“Well you have a long time before you’ll have to miss smelling my pillow. I’m not going anywhere for a long time. And don’t you worry about such things.”
Today on Facebook I saw a post that read, “I am sitting at my mother’s bedside, bearing witness to her struggle to leave this world. This is the part where the entire universe is condensed into a pain so vast that we don’t know how it all fits into one grieving heart.”
I thought of the bedside where I sat while my Mom, so many years ago, readying herself to metamorphosis into the social butterfly much like the one that adorned her pant leg and jacket.
The butterfly outfit I now own as my sacred heirloom.
In reading my friends post, I couldn’t help but to think about that five year old me, worried about losing my Mom, about her not being here one day. And right when I saw the post, and thought of that butterfly outfit, she called.
I saw “Mom,” on the phone screen with a picture of the now mature crone that she is, too big to fit into her long ago butterfly outfit wearing days. And like mother’s intuition, she was calling with perfect timing, as if the universe had connected me to this man whose mother was nearing her transition, so that I could feel profoundly grateful about still having mine, and be able to tell her.
Instead, when I answered she said,
“Krista, glad I caught you. I just called to let you know I love you. I am so proud of you, and so happy to be your Mom. Also, I’m calling because I had a dream about you last night, so I thought this meant I needed to call you today.”
I’ve always been one that looks for synchronicity, one who takes each synchronic moment as a “sign,” as a life affirming moment saying we are exactly where we are supposed to be. I also believe that there is truth in the butterfly effect, and how we are all truly interconnected.
The day will come when I will want all the “clocks to stop,” and repeat in my heart the sentiments of W.H. Audens’s Funeral Blues poem. But for today I am deeply grateful that I got to talk with my Mom on the same day my friend lost his.
He let us know through his last post.
“So the sun shines on this funeral…just the same as on a birth. The way it shines on everything that happens here on Earth. It rolls out over the western sky, and back into the sea. And spends the days last rays upon this fucked-up family. So…long…old…gal.” – James Taylor.
I dedicate this article to our Moms, and to my Mom’s butterfly outfit, to all the dancing she did in that polyester rhinestone attire. I wish a similar kind of metamorphosis for my friend’s mother’s passing today.
May she too take flight in the direction where we all must go, that unknown place that even five year olds think about with a depth of sorrow.
May our north, our south, our east, and our west continue to shine with luminous joy, because, as W. H. Auden so beautifully crafted in his Funeral Blues, there are certainly those people in our lives that are our four corners, our everything, and indeed it’s worth stopping the clocks for them, and us.
Until then, may we all wear our happy clothes, our butterfly outfits, and dance and dance and dance until our dancing takes other forms.
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Ed: Catherine Monkman