emerging face

April 11th, 2011

Last week I was taking notes at a meeting and I suddenly noticed my hands. However I might appear to others, my hands have always betrayed me. They are workman’s hands, big-knuckled, covered in ropey veins and papery skin. I swear they are mummified. When I looked at them this time, I saw age spots.

“I have my mother’s hands,” I later told my teacher.

Last week I read about a conference entitled The Emerging Face of Something or The Other. I’m not being specific because “emerging face” is applied to all kinds of things to make them seem new or trendy or interesting. Like that magazine article that chooses 50 of the Most Fascinating People of the Year. You don’t know 25 of them and you won’t remember the other 25 by the end of the week. We all have about three minutes when we’re just fascinated by our own emergence. Then our real face shows up, and it’s not so new after all. We stop finding ourselves remarkable, and then we can begin to do good for others.

“Do you ever hear yourself speak with her voice?” he asked me.

Wednesday will be the tenth anniversary of my mother’s death. I remembered this picture of her, taken in my backyard, holding baby Georgia. Everyone is dressed up for this, the baby in one of those darling outfits you manage to put on once before they are outgrown. Mom is wearing a wig, since she is bald after her first round of chemo. We are happy and hopeful. I can see her hands, which are my hands, and I can see her face, which is my face, and I can see everything that will emerge from this moment.

“On my best days,” I answered. “I hear my mother’s voice on my best days.”

Karen, this is your mother.

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  1. I was touched by this. A couple of weeks ago I was sitting with my mom in the hospital, holding her hand and we started talking about how much our hands look alike and how both of our hands were so much like my grandmother’s hands. Once years ago my mother, grandmother and I were sitting and chatting when I noticed that both of them were sitting in the exact position I was…3 generations of pretzels. I love those moments.


    Comment by Cynthia — April 11, 2011 @ 7:17 am

  2. I was looking at my hands today and thinking the same.
    Except, my mom takes much better care of her hands…fancy lotions and such. So, despite thirty years between us, our hands are aged equally.

    I love reading your words and I am so excited to read your next book! And, look out for mine; it will be coming soon!

    Comment by Lauren Pacuit — April 11, 2011 @ 9:47 am

  3. I lost my mother 11 years ago. I am often troubled by the “could haves, should haves and the bane of my practice the if onlys. I hope she realized that I loved her, know she did her best. I also hope my children will feel the same.

    Comment by Suzanne — April 11, 2011 @ 10:13 am

  4. Was my fathers birthday yesterday. I casually mentioned that to my 9 year old at the dinner table. He asked why we didn’t celebrate it. “Because he’s … dead, I guess.” “No, we went to church. That’s kind of celebrating it. And we had ice cream today. We celebrated it.”

    Your posts often take my breath away and remind me to breathe all at the same time. Love you!

    Comment by Mrs. B. Roth — April 11, 2011 @ 10:26 am

  5. What a lovely post and remembrance.

    On my best days, I am very like her. She was a lovely woman.

    I’m glad your Mom was too, and I can guarantee she knew how you felt about her. After all, she was a mom. We know this stuff.

    Comment by Em — April 11, 2011 @ 11:58 am

  6. That should say: On my best days I am very like my mom.

    Comment by Em — April 11, 2011 @ 11:59 am

  7. I saw my mother’s sister in your face recently. And her face is often my mom’s face. And I am my mother. And I’ve told you before, you are too. 🙂

    Comment by Honmei — April 11, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

  8. This is beautiful, both the picture and the post. I love the way hands always give people away. Eyes might be the windows to the soul, but hands tell us what you do and how your body lives.

    Comment by Lorianne — April 11, 2011 @ 2:21 pm

  9. I love the essence of this, that we not only become our mothers as popular wisdom tells us, but, truly, in some very important respects we ARE our mothers, they having escaped their earthmobiles and needing a place to stay. It’s a delicious confusion, this boundary blending. Then. Now. You. Me. Her. All the same.

    Comment by Connie Assadi — April 11, 2011 @ 4:23 pm

  10. What kindness, sweetness and wisdom in this post. It’s beautiful.
    We are of our parents … My hands are Dad’s (he departed when we were 42 & 40); my only sibling’s (sister) are Mom’s (we were 20 & 18).When K was home half dozen years past, she wrote a small photo-essay about them. When ever loneliness shadows me, it gives me comfort.

    Comment by Mary P. — April 11, 2011 @ 5:11 pm

  11. Ah Karen, what a tribute to your beautiful mother and the ways in which she lives on in you. Your writing always touches me, but this piece pierces right to the heart of things — love, family, loss, what’s lost, what lasts. Thank you.

    Comment by Katrina Kenison — April 11, 2011 @ 6:34 pm

  12. The older I get, the less I resist the similarities. I imagine when she’s gone, I will treasure them. Watching my daughter grow up, I have an inkling of how my mother feels about me. Thank you for the reminder to find the treasures today, now.

    Comment by Alana — April 11, 2011 @ 9:26 pm

  13. I will never stop missing her, never stop quoting her and never stop trying to be more like her. I bought an Easter lily today in her honor. Having a loving mother is life’s number one blessing.

    Comment by Tricia — April 11, 2011 @ 10:47 pm

  14. Thank you for sharing. I’ve noticed the same thing about my own hands and my voice in similarity to my mother’s. I don’t mind those things, but when I hear my mother’s tension and anxiety creeping in, that’s when I get frustrated.

    Comment by Audra — April 12, 2011 @ 2:04 am

  15. Beautiful. Here’s to your mother…

    Comment by Bobbi — April 12, 2011 @ 2:29 am

  16. seeing her. love to you as you remember and celebrate your mother on wednesday and everyday. on wednesday, we remember and celebrate the birth of my daughter. and i vow to see and listen and savor. thank you.

    Comment by melissa — April 12, 2011 @ 3:44 am

  17. thank you. i miss my mother and i feel grateful that i get to call her and tell her.

    Comment by sarah — April 12, 2011 @ 11:53 am

  18. Thank you for your wisdom Karen. Recently feeling disappointed my mom forgot to call on my daughter’s birthday. Your post reminds me: I’m glad she’s around to call – even if it’s one day later.

    Comment by Cheryl — April 12, 2011 @ 7:30 pm

  19. Thank you for sharing this with us. My mother has metastasized breast cancer, and your books have been such a blessing for me during this time.

    Comment by Deirdre — April 13, 2011 @ 6:15 am

  20. […] words, from this post, struck me a few days ago: We all have about three minutes when we’re just fascinated by our own […]

    Pingback by Trade Ya « More Joy, Less Oy — April 14, 2011 @ 3:44 pm

  21. What a beautiful tribute to your mother. I love the photo of your mom – her joy at being with you and holding little Georgia is very evident in her face. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Kara — April 17, 2011 @ 6:00 am

  22. Karen, this is so beautiful. And so are you, your mother and Georgia, all one. Love.

    Comment by Katie Murphy — April 23, 2011 @ 3:37 pm

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