Rose of Memory

Saturday, May 7, 2016

photo credit: Joshua Franzos

Forgive me Mother for I have sinned. It has been three years since my last yoga session. 
I don't know why I stopped. Time, money, my yoga buddy moved away... from time to time, I think of it, lately more so.  I keep dwelling on something a yoga instructor once said that bothered me. 

It was a wintery Sunday in 2013. The yoga class was in mandu kasana or frog pose--a hip opener stretch. There was a strong feeling of resistance within my hips. I hated it, my pelvis felt like it was going to snap in half and the contents of pandora's box would come spilling out and kill everyone. The yoga instructor walked around and gently, corrected people in their poses, so that they got a deeper stretch or showed them how to not hurt themselves. She did this instinctively while telling the yoga class about the pelvis, hips and sacrum. 

She said, "An overwhelming emotional response may come over you when you do hip-openers. This is natural. Our hips and our sacrum, they are the body's emotional junk drawer. We store those emotional stressors, those sad memories, relationship woes and family issues there. By opening the hips, this is an opportunity for us to release and clear them. Acknowledge your emotions, let them flow out of you and move on to your greater purpose." 

Then the yoga instructor gently pushed my butt down deeper into frog pose. Vile metaphysical harpy. In truth, I did want to cry, but only because my pelvis was on fire and the sides of my knees were being ground into the floor. Emotional junk drawer. pffft.

photo credit: Joshua Franzos

photo credit: Joshua Franzos

A couple weeks ago I went to my second physical therapy appointment and had what can only be described as a Proustian memory moment, but I can't tell you officially. In Search of Lost Time or Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust is on my unofficial list of books I want to read at some point, but...let's say the average novel is 90,000 words long, Proust's opus is 1,267,069. Shame. Anyway, I went to physical therapy. My physical therapist is kind, knowledgeable and professional. I walked for her, up and down the gym floor. She watched me and my gait with her eagle eyes. In an examination room, I bent over for her and touched my toes. She flipped my shirt up (with my permission) and ran her soft hand down my spine, and...I was face to face with a torrent of forgotten memories and "an overwhelming emotional response" was rapidly bubbling up to my face.
She ran her soft hand down my spine one more time and said, "huh...I believe you have a touch of scoliosis, which may've put enough pressure on that joint to bring us to today, certainly isn't helping...okay, hop up on the table for me..."

I got up onto the table. My physical therapist gave me some exercises to do and left me alone for a few minutes while I did them. I half did them and half tried not think about the fact that I'd just fucking felt my mother's hand run along the length of my spine, but really all I did was try and mop up the waterworks before my physical therapist returned. Did I mention my mother has been dead for thirteen years? Did I mention I didn't, that I couldn't cry at her funeral? That back then I was under the thick, wet curtain of anti-depressants and I had no emotions? I was vulcan and guided by logic--I couldn't cry because I was relieved that she was finally freed, after nearly a decade of suffering. That's what I rationalized to myself anyway, now that I'm out from under the curtain, I know better...Funny...Sad...Ironic that I was in physical therapy for an inflamed sacroiliac joint that may have been created by the pressure from a potentially undiagnosed case of scoliosis. My emotional junk drawer, that's been stuck for over a decade, was suddenly wide open. I danced between sweet sadness and laughter. I thought I was going insane.

photo credit: Joshua Franzos
  My mother. I look like her a lot, people always tell me so, but personality wise, we couldn't be more different. That's neither here nor there. She was a registered nurse by profession. Around the time of my pre-adolescence, she did a career stint as a school nurse and she also became obsessed with my back. Every time I climbed out of a bath or a shower, she was there, waiting for me with a towel. I would dry off and then I'd bend over. She would run her hand down my spine and look for signs of scoliosis. At my elementary school, she ran the girl's scoliosis check "clinics." Starting in 1990, the girls in my class stood in line in the school's gymnasium. The nurses checked each girl behind a divider. Bend over, touch your toes. That was the drill. Then one day my friend Molly looked at us sadly and shook her head. She had a note to give to her parents. Some time later, she showed up at school wearing a metal scoliosis cage. My own mother was obsessed with my back, she looked at me like she couldn't quite figure something out, but she never voiced any of her concerns to me. I sort of remember her pointing it out to a white-haired doctor in a white lab coat, but he wasn't concerned at all. That was the end of it of what I sort of remembered. It was so faintly vivid and so long ago that I wasn't even sure I was really remembering it. Maybe I was remembering a Judy Blume book? The prospect of "remembering" a novel as my own memory terrified me to the core. After my physical theraphy appointment was done, I "tore off" to the library to make sure I wasn't losing it. 

I hit the digital card catalog, occasionally wiping my eyes. The feel of my mother's hand on my back was still fresh. The book I was looking for was Deenie by Judy Blume. It did exist. I grit my teeth. I looked up where I could find it and grit my teeth again. It was in the teen section. I'd had a run in in the teen section before. They treat you like sexual predators down there when I'd only tried to write in there when all the other available desks were taken. I got booted. I looked to see if Deenie was in any other part of the library where I didn't have to deal with the teen librarian. Nope, but I had to know if I was losing my mind so I tromped down there. The librarian headed me off at the pass, physically placed herself between me and the table of "teenagers" that looked more like 22 year old college students cramming for an exam, "Can I help you?"
"Yes," I said, "I need a book that's apparently in the teen fiction section." 
"You're sure it's not elsewhere in the library?"  
"If it was, you can be sure I wouldn't have troubled you."
"What is it?"
"Deenie by Judy Blume," I said and looked down in embarrassment. 
"Deenie, Deenie, Deenie..." she muttered as she escorted me back to the teen book stacks. I followed her, sort of remembering the yellow hardback tome with groovy seventies coverart under a glassine protector. I remember the Judy Blume books I checked out from my California library smelling, as my ten year old self would describe, "yucky."
"Ah," she said, "here it is."
She pulled a diminutive paperback off the shelf and handed it to me. It was just a little slip of a thing, not at all like my memory. 
"Okay. Thanks," I said, starting to walk out. 
She ran up and once again placed herself in between me and the table of "teenagers" I was clearly looking to molest. I'm a 36 year old married woman that apparently looks like she loves nothing more than perving up some sweet, underage poontang at the library. I rolled my eyes so hard, I almost threw my back out again. I checked the book out and left.
With my light as a feather book, barely 33,000 words, I made it back to work before my lunch hour ended. After work, I laid on the floor and read Deenie for two hours. Here's the gist. The main character has scoliosis and gets a brace. Also, my memories are safely my own. I couldn't be happier or sadder. 

photo credit: Joshua Franzos

photo credit: Joshua Franzos

photo credit: Joshua Franzos

photo credit: Joshua Franzos

I know what I felt. I can still feel my mother's hand on me. I still weep. It's awful that the worst memories of her were the most vivid for so long. It has been nice to remember her when she wasn't sick, when she could be a mother to me. Opening up my junk drawer has opened up a volume of memories I'd long forgotten about. I remember her bringing me to the library on a weekly basis. I remember her handing me a mini maglite and encouraging me to disobey my father's cry for "light's out." "here's a flashlight. You can read under the covers." I probably read Deenie that way. 

As long as I've known Josh, I've been helping him cover Race For The Cure on Mother's Day. My mother died from breast cancer. Funny. Sad. Ironic. Amazing, that I would have this emotional revelation so close to Mother's Day and Race for the Cure. God, isn't there a weird synchronicity to life sometimes?  I don't have a mom to buy gifts for anymore, but I will celebrate her life and her spirit and her soft hands in my heart. If you too find yourself in this boat, truly, follow the vile metaphysical harpy's advice. Remember, acknowledge your emotions, and let them flow out of you so that you can move on to your greater purpose. Do it to make your mother proud. Believe what you want, but I'm pretty sure my mother is still watching me and obsessing over my back.

photo credit: Joshua Franzos

What I wore: 
Blazer: Anna Sui original sample SS02
Camisole: past season Express.
Watch: vintage Omega, my mother's
Jeans: past season Seven For All Mankind   
Shoes: Anna Sui original sample SS02 
Purse: French, family heirloom. 

Your bosom friend in Pittsburgh, 


  1. Beautiful, Meryl. I lost my mom 5 years ago.....

  2. Well, now I'm all choked up. I have several memories of your mom, and this post made those sweet memories bubble up to the forefront of my mind. I remember eating cookies in your kitchen above the old Honda shop. Your mom would sit and chit-chat with a bunch of teenagers without getting distracted, and she had such a warmth about her. She smiled often and laughed easily. I can hear her laugh. I think of your family often as I have a wide collection of your old dishes. Your mom passed right around the time that I was settling into my first home, and I acquired all of your cream-colored Corelle dinnerware. We still use them on a daily basis. I may even have a piece or two of Tupperware with Humphrey still written on the bottom.

    Your eyes sparkle like hers, Meryl. I'm pretty sure your mom is still obsessing over way more than just your back. Beautiful post!

  3. Wow! You look stunning! I love the pretty and dainty flower details on you jacket and shoes! This is just breathtaking!
    Happy Monday, love!
    xoxo, Vanessa

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