I remember wooden church pews, wrapping my arm around my mother’s arm and watching her hands as they rested on her lap or turned through the delicate pages of her Bible. I remember holding mine up beside hers and studying the two: large and small, mother and daughter, same but different.
I remember her back, standing at the stove, at the dishwasher, raising her arms up to the shelves of the cabinets, in a blue cotton bathrobe, stirring a cup of coffee.
I remember her lightly slapping the bottoms of my feet for walking across the tops of the couches after being told not to do so for the hundredth time.
I remember sitting on the couch in our living room after bedtime, and the weight of her sigh as she sat down beside me. I remember that I was being punished for something, but I can’t recall what. Instead, I remember staring straight ahead to the stairwell as she spoke. We need to talk, because I want to have a relationship with you, I want to be friends with you when you’re all grown up and that starts now. With talking.
I remember blinking, consciously so, as though my eye lids could flutter a response that my stubborn lips weren’t willing to give.
I remember her counting invisible fish on the ceiling of our bathroom as she poured water to rinse shampoo from my hair.
I remember her silhouette blowing goodnight kisses from the doorway. Goodnight, sweet dreams, God bless you, I love you.
I remember being my mother’s daughter, in a mosaic of moments.
On Monday, I took Lila out for a date, just the two of us. We ate a light lunch of soup and smoothies. She seemed more interested in the width of her straw (which was actually quite wide) than in our conversations.
We went to get our nails done, something I don’t normally do, something Lila has never done. I watched her as she held her small hands up for the manicurist to work. As they rubbed pink lotion over her fingers, she stared over their heads at the giant, glittering wall art. She watched the ladies across the room, getting their pedicures, Mama, she whispered, leaning close, that one lady fell asleep getting her feet done. She watched the fish tank, the manicurist, the muted television hanging overhead. She watched my hands, nodded in approval at my color choice as they began painting.
Lila had intricate flowers dotted on each of her thumbs and I smiled as I watched her stare down at them. There’s a memory for her, I thought. Her first manicure. What else would she hold onto from our afternoon? The green glittering wall art? The massive fish floating up and down the walls of the fish tank? The purple sheen of her new, glittery nails? The giant straw from her smoothie?
When we were finished, we sat across from each other at a table with a space for our hands beneath gently blowing fans to dry our new beautiful nails. I turned to look around the salon and when I looked back, she was gone – well, her head was. I could see her flip-flopped feet dangling across from me, but her head was ducked down. I dropped my own head down and peeked at her, smiling at me there in the space where our nails dried.
And so, for five minutes as we waited, we played a simple game of peek-a-boo.
That was my favorite part, Lila told me, sliding her hand into mine as we left the salon.
What was? I asked, your nails? They do look so pretty.
Playing peek-a-boo with you.
Our smiles finding each other across the table as salon workers watched with small smiles of their own and fish bubbled and bounced along beside our table.
Mine too, I realized aloud.
And just like that, I it happened. A mosaic moment. A happy little cutout from our growing relationship, something smiling and simple and wonderful – frozen in memory. For both of us.