Another assignment for class. This is my “collage” piece.
Who She Is
During the last trimester, the fetus swallows up to a liter a day of amniotic fluid. The fluid is the fetus� �flavor bridge� to breast milk, which also carries food flavors from the mother�s diet. They say by 13-15 weeks, the fetus� taste buds resemble an adult�s taste buds, and that the amniotic fluid surrounding it smells like whatever the mother eats, in Maria�s case � peppers.
Christina, Joan Crawford�s oldest adopted child, wrote a movie script about her maniacal movie star mother who once taught her not to play with matches by holding her hand over an open flame. In an interview in People magazine, second oldest child Chris called his mother �J.C.” or “that bitch,� but said, “I guess I loved her.”
Before staring in Mommie Dearest, Dunaway grew up in the Florida pan-handle, where her dirt-poor mother drove her to auditions in a beat-up Chevy. During the movie�s roaring success, Dunaway�s mother called her often, always with the same question, �I was never like that, was I?�
The founder of Mother�s Day, Miss Anna Jarvis pushed the holiday in remembrance of her mother, Ann Marie Jarvis. For punishment, Mrs. Jarvis made her daughter kneel before her, with her arms stretched out with a Bible in her hand. She had to recite verses until her mother was satisfied. Mrs. Jarvis told her children daily that there should be a day celebrating the �service mothers render to humanity. She is entitled to it.” Miss Jarvis spent the next sixty years and all of her fortune toward the Mother�s Day movement. She died at 84, childless.
Maria cannot look at cake without thinking of the way her mother�s French-tipped nails gathered her skin in a caliper-pinch the winter she fattened under puberty. She harbored her blossoming fat and skin under long sleeves and layered clothing she wouldn’t hear the tinny-threats of her mother, who punctuated all meals with, “God, who taught you to eat like that?”
Her mother waited outside the bathroom until Maria walked out soaking in a towel. She grabbed Maria�s soft pale waist first. “Stick out your arms,� She instructed. �Jesus, quit moving, would you? I’ve already seen you naked.”
Maria�s father loved thick steaks and cold beer and had a triple-bypass to show for it. His metabolism worked at the speed of an uphill train. Her mother’s metabolism, on the other hand, was that of a savannah grassland cheetah. Maria shivered as the towel fell down, exposed as a scab-ripped wound. While measuring her daughter, she said, �I just don�t want you to end up like your father.�
There is a Pacific folktale about a girl named Sirena who forsook her chores and duties for swimming in the ocean. One day, her mother is so infuriated at her disobedience that she casts a spell on Sirena, turning the child into a large flopping fish. The mother is horrified and calls upon the only person who can reverse the spell � Sirena’s godmother. The godmother admits she can only change half of Sirena back into a human. The child spends the rest of her life swimming and splashing at her mother who is stationed on the shore, always in tears.
When the school bus pulls up in front of Maria�s house, everything looks normal until she spots her mother standing in the middle of the yard, scattering blue and white rags everywhere. Some hang down from the gutter like mini-flags. Maria realizes what it is. Her underwear. Not only is it her underwear, but it�s the days-of-the-week kind her mother bought on sale. The others on the bus recognize what it is too and enter a barrage of questions, �What is your mother doing with your underwear?� The tears come quick to Maria as she runs up the steps. �Why are you doing this to me?�
Her mother, Miss Hands-On-Hips, says, �What? I told you to clean your room.�
Maria�s scholarship is actually a loan she secures by forging her mother�s signature. This affords her entrance into a university on the opposite coast. She loses her virginity to Adam, a boy who convinces her to stop saying, �What would my mother say about this?� She dyes her hair jet black, learns dirty words in French and wears perfume and risqu� clothing. She only comes home on holidays, when she has to.
Walking the line
During Christmas break, Maria walks into mass alone. She wears the black patent boots her mother says makes her look whorish. Her heels clip-clop into awakened ear drums, lifting her up from the marble tile and announcing her arrival before she appears. The congregation has nothing better to do than to direct their heads toward the approaching echo. Women stick out their feet, hoping she�ll trip and break anything. Husbands divert their attention to fishing lures and hot rods under the hawkeye watch of women who already know what question to ask, �Who the hell does she think she is? This is mass, not Mardi Gras.� Maria winks at the little Catholic girls sneaking glances while their mothers disapprove. When she walks past, they dream of places where they can wear high heels and know exactly who they are before they walk into the room.