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  • Yvonne Hafifi , my mother died on January 1 1981. After all this time I can no longer see her close enough or even recall her pet names for me. I don't recall if she called me honey, or lovey or baby, or my own name . I remember she washed her face with Lancome cleansing milk, brushed her teeth with Sensodyne toothpaste, her perfume,Joy. She wore fabulous clothes and shoes she loved to dance, she gave incredible parties with lavish spreads of Lebanese delicacies prepared by our dear friend Susie Nash. She once had a lover , a married man who sold the biggest strawberries with long stems in Los Angeles, and proudly brought them home to us, flats of them , in the Spring.

    She took many pills in the morning and several more at night. She would often whirl herself, unfolding tornadoes of fury at me and my sister.

    I would cower in my closet, deep, folded into myself, as one would in a bomb shelter or storm cellar, waiting for her to blow over.

    The wreckage was always tremendous, nearly laughable but devastating. Our beds ripped apart, clothes hurled from drawers, from beneath our beds and closet. Secret letters and poems, journals and drawings exposed and shredded. Favorite ceramics and nic nacs, pots made at school shattered, broken to pieces.
    I always wondered who was our witness, but it seemed as if only my eyes took in the chaos her raging left. The OtherOne would leave when the storms began to cluster and form, when the look on her face upon arriving home from work was dark and ominous, her pupils dialated, her skin damp. There would be no eye contact and then the OtherOne would run out the door as the screaming hit it's first fevered pitch.
    In my closet shelter I would hear the ripping and tearing, the shoving of furniture, the crashing of element.
    As I hid in my closet, during her rages I would often recall her stories of her life before us when she lived in a beautiful San Francisco apartment, the wide bay windows with a view of the bridge, her bed draped in four shades of blue tuille she was given by the window dresser at Saks, where she was the Milliner. Cut metal Moroccan lamps , glowing amber silouettes through intricate metal cut work, the smoke steam and hiss of cigarette and weed, Billie Holiday on the phonograph and dressed in orange Kashmiri silk pajamas. Her glass of scotch tinkles as she takes another sip, waiting for her love.r.
    Her eyes are deep pools of coffee , her skin faintly brown, generous, full lips. she is petite but perfectly porportioned. She has a lush mane of black hair, the perfect Lebanese nose and a wide engaging smile.
    She is very confident and very smart. A poet, calligrapher, entrepeneur, and then, in the 60's, became a single mother millionaire.
    My sense is that she never imagined how she got herself to this life, single with two small girls.

    When her storms would subside, her grief began and as always, she fell terribly ill. She bought herself a hospital bed for her bedroom , and it was always difficult for me to drape the antique Austrian lace coverlet over the clanging metal side bars where the fine linen and lacework would catch in the chains.
    She medicated herself constantly but I remained, watchful, tentative, the water bearer,the side bar lifter.
    When her moaning began it's first precious allegory, I was the only one there.
    The OtherOne was never to be seen again, as she began to weave her own cocoon of drugs and distraction and I was left alone to tend to the brewing torrent laying in wait as I reluctantly fed her insatiable guilt.
    The more I nourished her the more detached from me she became. Her energy would arrive in the guise of a prescription bottle and then she would return to her source.

    I do believe she may have experienced some joy from me, although I do not recall her ever being delighted by anything I did. I continued to try to please her, as the land will feed a funnel cloud with trailers and pick up trucks and livestock. Trees. I learned to cook as well as Susie Nash, i became a skilled witch, and learned to tuck the lace into the chains with out ripping it.

    I learned to keep my rebellion to myself and to take cover quietly when the dark clouds in her eyes began to boil and rumble.

    She put hooks in me in places that I never even knew she noticed. Large rusty grappling hooks where her rage and her generosity pushed and pulled at my protection. She seemed to long only for the OtherOne, her first born, her luminous one. All my attention and consolation, empathy and vigilence were overlooked for the one she could not bring to servitude.
    I could not bring myself not to serve her.
    Rewards were always sensitive and timely, and finally just before she died her flood waters broke bringing forth recompense, European holidays, bankrolled shopping trips to Paris and Harrod's. Real affection. Heartfelt conversation. Appreciation of my painting, my writing, my cooking, my career and her not intentionally mentioning my proclivity for punk rock boys and Jack Daniels.
    Finally, she began to notice my steadfastness and recognized it as love and devotion and I did, and do, love her.

    Her softness finally came in her illness and vulnerablilty, the spontaneity she wore so passionately, the spontaneity that i still lack being the careful one, the water bearer, that may not spill the vessel, the one to walk the tight rope on the edge of the rumbling cauldron ditching the steam vents and flowing over the landscape as she grabs her hair and shakes off the demon holding her soul.
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