torsdag, december 08, 2005

The Second Remission

"I saw three women this evening with cancer hair," my daughter said.

I saw four, but it wasn't a contest. I said nothing.

Did I never notice them before, or did women such as these of past decades die away quietly and out of sight? My mother has just gone through her second mastectomy, second chemo, and second run of radiation. Her hair has grown back enough to look intentionally stylish. Most of it is dark grey, ridged around the hairline with a shock of white. The hair is as soft as a puppy's. I have to stop myself from petting her head.

Her upper body is so incredibly small now. She was visiting from the south, so I threw my Nordic coats on her with every brief outting outside. I imagined that the needle-like wind would pierce her if she were not protected with Finnish technology and high grade down. She had trouble stretching her arms, as the cut site was still tender. I dressed her as I would have to do a toddler. I wanted to keep her with me, like another one of the kids; make sure she had a bed, new clothes every season, books, chocolates, the morning crossword and a window that catches the sun.

I spent a day - thirteen hours to be exact - on our early holiday feast. Each time I passed by the table partially set with our family whites, the thought of having some other type of plate kept nagging at me. Then, when looking for the silly, dishwasher-unsafe thirty-year-old probably lined with lead snowmen head hot chocolate cups, I found her china instead. That was what my tired brain was trying to remind me. I pulled them down, rubbed the silver lining around the edge of each, and set the girls to doing a fast switch, including the china bread plates and cups and saucers.

Two hours later she saw the table and quickly disappeared. She returned with a hand delivery of one of her famous newspaper clippings. This one was written by Ellen Goodman, a Boston Globe columnist. Ms. Goodman had described the almost compulsive need of her siblings and her to use their own grandmother's dishes this way. My mom had read this and thought of her own china that she had passed on to me, cut the column out and brought it thousands of miles for me to agree with. Thank goodness that some part of my brain had been overheating itself in an attempt to get the rest of bossy me to remember the china. It was a close save, and a big one. I cannot wait to place it in front of her again next year.