There it sits, white and delicate, artistry on her beside table. It belongs to my 90 year old mother. She had nine children by our father, a testament of womanly power. Her work was having the babies she loved, always ready for the next, enamored by the newest hanging on one breast, a book in her other hand. She leaves older children to raise each other. She’s a man lover who married three times and esteems love’s power. Each time she widowed, her belief in love delivered another good man of WWII vintage. She treasures this statuette of mother and baby and has kept it close for forty years.
It’s fine white porcelain. A slim young girl plays with her baby. A pure maiden, long white dress glued to curves. Long braids tied to her head. She leans back, face tilts away from a naked urchin who clutches her skirt. This pretty girl with a baby is what I want to be. Chubby face and hands reach up, his fine fingers extend in supplication but the smiling girl doesn’t pick up her baby. Hands held behind her back, she withholds the child’s bow and arrows.
This figurine sat in a shop window in Monticello. At seventeen, I bought it for a month’s wages. I cleaned bathrooms, made beds and dried dishes at a summer retreat but squandered college money to buy a pure incarnation of mother and child. Sharing my mother’s fantasy of motherhood, I loved this precious tchotchke with its irresistible engraved image, it embodied my belief in motherly love, a dream I held for a decade.
More than anything, I wanted to be a mother, a vision that shattered when I was thirty. My lover unveiled the mysterious look I saw on the girl’s face, he said what he saw was a young woman using feminine charm to trick Cupid out of his bow and arrows. Suddenly I saw Cupid and revealed was a flirt taunting a baby. What I’d held holy evaporated, white purity crystalized cold inside me. I felt betrayed by naivety and disowned it. When I look at this dust catcher today, I see a bitch.
I wanted that mother and child out of my life. Its beauty and cost stopped me from breaking or trashing it. Instead I gave it to my mother. A true believer in motherhood deception, she treasures what I cast off.