She Comes In Colors

My mother always used to say she was an artist and that her work of art was life, itself.

It was a very fitting analogy. Anyone who knew my mother would agree that she lived her life in loud and bright colors.
This was evident not only in her apparel, ranging from flowing pink skirts to bright orange harem pants; but also in the vivid shades adorning the walls of her rooms; the color schemes, each individually created with a specific room in mind.

My beautiful mother

From colorful and eclectic furniture, down to her kitchen utensils. From the deep blue ladle that I had proudly bought her when I was a kid, to the corkscrew that had been cleverly transformed into a girl sporting two pigtails and a merlot-toned dress, performing a series of twirls and jumping jacks while loosening the cork… every item was unique.

And just to add a little extra emphasis, I’m fairly certain that she is the only person I have ever met to be the proud owner of a bright green, cactus-shaped toilet brush .. (to be fair, this wasn’t just your average-cactus-shaped-bathroom-accessory; this one was actually manufactured by one of Italy’s leading designers in home decor. Fancy shit. {No pun intended}. Anyways, for one reason or another my mom was hellbent on owning it, and so she ended up paying a small fortune .. on a brush whose only purpose is to scrub a toilet.)

Yes, she definitely had her quirks but she owned them. She was one of a kind. She couldn’t be categorized or labeled and she refused to be defined because “to be defined is to be limited” and she was limitless.

Her goals and dreams and personality were far too big to be reduced for the single purpose of fitting in some small-minded individual’s (mis)conception of who she should be and which stars she should be reaching for. (The ones within reach of course, they’re the safe ones.)

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Her favorite quote she would often recite to me was:

Don’t dream your life away. Give life to your dreams instead.

She made it sound so simple. A routine task to be squeezed in right after you finish watching your favorite quiz show and just before heating up the canned spaghetti’os that are for dinner.


Looking back I realize that in a way, dreams did seem easier to reach when my mom was still alive. Be it due to her truly believing that I was capable and worthy of dreaming big; or be it the lack of eye opening experiences this life had yet to bestow on me. (An ordeal that was to last for the next couple of years, consisting of life “experiences” and “lessons”, both of which didn’t kill me, so why the hell do I not feel stronger?)


My mother’s loud und sudden outbursts of laughter were her trademark.  Random bystanders couldn’t help but join in laughing, without even knowing what was so funny to begin with.
She was the person who could make your day a little less grey and gloomy by simply being in your presence. Adding splashes of bright color.

I will never stop or get tired of remembering my mother, and what an incredible honor it was to be raised by a woman so fearless.

This tiny woman left some big shoes to fill and I can’t wait to grow, not only in years (we sometimes forget that getting older is a privilege denied to many) but growing into the person I’m meant to be and the ever-evolving woman I have started to mould myself into.
After all, I am my mother’s only daughter, a true match by nature, the vessel through which she will never cease to exist.

When I look at her life’s “completed” work of art it makes me sad to see the blank spots scattered across the canvas. Blank spots that were waiting to be filled with creativity and vitality, similar to the act of “giving life to your dream”.

I’m tempted to color in the spots for her but I know that I can’t stay stuck in someone else’s life, living someone else’s dreams.
So instead I will get started on my own canvas.

It lies blank before me and my fear tells me to run from the responsibility of making it look presentable; the fear of ending up with something monotonous, interchangeable, that can be easily labeled and categorized, to be filed in a drawer and forgotten after I’m gone.

I refuse to let that happen. And just to ensure that it won’t (because my mother had the ability to recognize existing imbalances and future disharmonies; long before my brain even considered the possibility of something being amiss) she has left me with all her life’s possessions; her paint brushes and palettes, her acrylics and oil pastels, watercolors and an abundance of additional supplies that helped her create and shape a life that may have been far from perfect but that was authentically and unabashedly hers and she owned it.

The important thing is to create. Nothing else matters. Creation is all.

Pablo Picasso

And suddenly I feel comfortable enough to relinquish control, closing my eyes as I let my mother’s brush guide me. When I take a step back and lift my gaze I can’t help but smile.

There, in the center of my canvas, in its very core, is a bold and vivid stroke of orange.

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Mamma

(8 Oct 1963 – 29 Jan 2016)

One thought on “She Comes In Colors

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