Mama loves the color purple. She says it’s Jesus’ favorite color. When I first saw that dress, I didn’t even know Jesus had a favorite color.
I still have an image of that dress today. It was nothing special, really. Even by June Clever standards. But when I was ten, it was the most beautiful dress I had ever seen. And it made Mama just as beautiful.
I told her how much I loved that dress. She must have said something like, “Well aren’t you so sweet.” And that was it. Nothing more. Nothing more was necessary.
When I was a kid, like most kids I guess, I would procrastinate from time to time. But I got that trait from my Mom or Dad or someone in my family upon whom my therapist can reasonably help me pin that blame. For argument’s sake, I’ll blame Mama. That will certainly help me rationalize the way she bailed me out from time to time.
She did some things she probably shouldn’t have. I remember not having done some school work before going to bed a few nights. The mornings after those nights, I’d wake up worrying. I was a worrier. Like Mama. I guess she understood me because of our similar emotional patterns. But when I woke up expecting the worst from the day ahead those few mornings, I found my work all done. By Mama.
Now, maybe I would be more of a responsible human being today if she had just let her child suffer the consequences of his inaction. But I credit Mama with the love and understanding I have for my own son. That I’ve had for almost 26 years now. And maybe I have done that man an injustice. If I have, well – he’ll just have to take that up with his own therapist. Like Mama with her children, I cannot stand to see my child suffer. Even in the slightest of ways.
One night before going to bed, during my sixth or seventh year, I noticed that one of my gold fish was sick. It was just floating. On its side. In that tiny little bowl that it shared with its mate. I thought it was dead. It should have been. And if it wasn’t, then surely it would be the next morning. I didn’t want to leave the little thing. I loved the little gold guy. Mama, as she always did, assured me everything would be okay. “You need to go to bed,” she said. So I did. And I don’t remember doubting her. She was always right when she gave reassuring information like that. At least in my eyes.
And. I was a bit of an idiot as a child. Thinking back on it now, I should have known that little side-floater would die. I should have known that no parent or anybody could have saved that fish. But I went to bed as an innocent and trusting little idiot-boy, never doubting at all the love and strength and ability of that woman.
When I woke up the next morning, I ran into the living room where the fish bowl stayed. On top of the upright piano. There was only one fish there. The sick one was gone. Mama let me down. For the first time ever. The woman let me down. That was a difficult moment for me.
I walked to the bathroom. There I saw Mama for the first time that day. She was just sitting there. On the closed toilet. Leaning over the bathtub. She looked old and tired that morning. Her right arm and hand were in the bathtub. She was moving water around. So very gently.
She had been there all night. Hunched over that tub. Nursing that damned little gold fish back to health.
Its mate was happy to have it back in the bowl later that morning. Mama was happy to get some rest. After seeing us off to school. I was simply in awe.
Several years later, I was beginning to grow up. I was about 9 or 10. Out in the world. Or at least out on the block. In the neighborhood. Taking care of myself. Exploring. Doing things that would surely cause Mama to hemorrhage. If she only knew.
I wasn’t worrying so much anymore. Growing away from the love of my life just a bit.
Jimmy Jordan’s older brother, Jickie, helped us build a tree house in the Jordan’s back yard. It was more of a tree platform. But is was ours. The guys’. Jimmy’s, Jody’s, Johnny’s Arthur’s, Paul’s and mine.
The foundation was triangular. The flooring was made of equal sized planks. The planks hung over the joists slightly on the wide end. Greatly on the narrow end. As I explored our place, the entire construction, I trusted my friends and their brothers just as much as I had always trusted Mama. I was growing up. So I stepped onto the floor that was over-hanging the narrow end of the triangular foundation. My foot landed on the outside of the joist. The other side of the plank let go and flew straight up like little Arthur on a seesaw when his large sister Rebecca sat opposite him.
I dropped from our tree platform. Straight down. To the ground. I think Mrs. Jordan’s close line broke my fall just a bit. But I couldn’t move. It was my back.
Some neighborhood men made a makeshift gurney. They carried me to a station wagon. And to the hospital. That’s where I remember seeing Mama.
I was in such pain. I was worried. Again. I was crying. But there was Mama. Standing in that room. Wearing that beautiful purple dress. She took the time to put on that dress before meeting the neighborhood men and her son at the hospital.
I don’t remember anything she said or did. Maybe she said or did nothing. She didn’t need to really. That purple dress said and did it all. It may not seem like much. But it was another extra mile or ten to me.
And, I’m not Jesus.
But on that day, purple was my favorite color, too.