I miss my mother’s body.
In our household skin was normal, and it wasn’t the slightest bit unusual to pee with the toilet door open, or to amble naked from bedroom to bathroom – not to mention from bedroom to the kitchen for a drink and back again! As a child, waking up in the morning the first thing I’d do would be to throw myself into bed with mum and dad, and they’d both be naked. (Sleeping without clothes always seemed perfectly sensible to me, and was something I took up myself after I turned fourteen. Pyjamas and nighties always felt right when I was younger, however. But never knickers… knickers were for daytime only!)
My mother has been dead for nearly eight years now, and I moved out of home two years before that. I miss a lot of things about her, but right now, as I was looking through the very interesting topless photographs on Jordan Matter’s site, I realise just how much I miss seeing her body.
I miss, as a teenager, sitting and talking to my mother while she was in the bath. She’d wash her hair and shave her legs, and we’d talk as she stepped out of the water, and I’d watch her dry and powder herself. I miss seeing the way her breasts drooped onto her chest, with their large aureole and perpetually pointy nipples a legacy of breast-feeding two children. Compared to me, her breasts were deeply interesting – my nipples are small and hard to coax out to play, and my aureole are a pale rose colour that match my lips. Hers, in contrast, were a dark colour that stood out against her skin, and the nipples pushed forward in a deep brown greeting that never failed to fascinate me.
I miss the dark birthmark on her shoulder; I miss the delicate rolls of fat on her back – two on each side of her spine (I had no back rolls then; now I have more than she does). I miss the solidity of her thighs and the thick keloided scar on one that she received as a teen herself when she smashed through a window when playing netball? hockey? I can’t remember and will never know, now.
I miss her double-chin, her slightly fleshy upper arms, her prominent hips with their comforting covering of flesh. I miss the pooch of her belly and her strong shoulders and the smell of her talc, her perfume, her deodorant. I miss raiding her closet and putting on her clothes and smelling how she smelled.
I have memories and photographs of my mother, and they are good things to have. But the sheer physical presence of her is gone. The conversations about masturbation and vibrators are never to be repeated (and I would have so many more things to say now, rather than being slightly embarrassed talking to my mum about such topics). Hugging her and feeling her body pressed against mine, not sexual but secure and safe and familiar and home, that’s all gone.
I miss my mother’s body. But there’s enough familiarity every time I see mine in the mirror that I know she is not forgotten.