Bottles of hand lotion are strewn throughout my mother’s house. An Ahava squeeze bottle next to the telephone in the kitchen, aloe vera crème on her nightstand, dollar store lotion in the powder room, a myriad of minuscule hotel-brand bottles of lotion by the remote control in the living room, by her computer keyboard, in her car and in her purse.
Maman’s hands have always been smooth and soft, despite her habit of picking at the skin around her nails until it bleeds – a habit I inherited. She has dainty fingers that used to play flute and piano and which now spend a fair amount of their time clacking away at her computer keyboard, exchanging jokes and news with family and friends around the globe from her post in Ottawa, where I grew up with my brother.
When we were young, Maman would cup our faces in her hands to give us kisses and she would stroke our backs when we felt ill. She always had a hug ready for us when she came back home after work and, of course, held our hands when we crossed the street. To this day, we link arms when strolling up a street or perusing a mall.
My brother now lives in Sudbury and I live in Toronto, far from our mother’s eager embrace. She doesn’t see us as often as she’d like, despite our Skype conversations, and she certainly doesn’t get to hug us as often as she’d like. Not one to dwell on her empty nest, Maman turned to hobbies that she’d set aside while raising her family. She acquired a loom and learned to weave; she picked up an extra sewing machine to perfect her skills; and she took up quilting, her nimble fingers creating works of art from discarded bits of fabric.
Very family oriented, my mother buried the fact that she wanted grand-children. Neither my brother nor I had shown any interest in ever having children; I, particularly, had voiced my convinced opinion that I was not made for a) a long, steady relationship and/or b) motherhood.
When I met and then married Jason, however, my mother’s hopes for a grand-child resurfaced. Yet she was subtler than most. While nearly everyone was quick to ask Jason and me: “So, when are you getting married?” and, once married, insisted to find out: “So, when are you having children?” – Maman didn’t want to push us. She made us a gorgeous emerald green and blue-black travelling-diamond-patterned quilt for our bed and simply hinted that she looked forward to making a smaller one “when the time comes”.
While she waited, Maman began a sewing circle of women making baby quilts for children in Israel, and continued to create quilts for her friends’ and relatives’ grand-children, each more intricate than the next. She said she was practicing for when she’d finally get to make a quilt for her own grand-child.
When my son Rohan was born in January, Maman was the first non-medical visitor who held him in her arms. She cradled his small body in the nook of her arm, stroked his cheek with her soft fingers and covered him in gentle kisses. And when came the time to bring him home from the hospital, she was ready. Out of her bag came the creation she’d been working on since we announced I was pregnant: a red-blue-green-yellow square-patterned zoo animals quilt, in which she wrapped Rohan to protect him from the cold.
She also took out of her bag a small bottle of lotion and handed it to me, so that I will always have soft hands when cuddling my son.