My Mom took her last breath two years ago today, a shallow one that barely moved her chest, and then she was gone. But here in the glass-fronted cabinet in my living room, I keep small artifacts of her life to take out and hold when I'm thinking of her.
Today I chose the tin measuring cups and spoons, used for countless batches of Christmas cookies, birthday cakes, and cherry pies. The whole story of my childhood is contained in those cups, dented and worn, the handles broken off. I remember stacking and nesting them on the linoleum floor while Mom worked her way around the kitchen fixing bottles for the twins and packing Dad’s lunch. She gave us pots and pans to play with in those days, wooden spoons and wire whisks, and she didn’t mind the racket we made, wearing stew pots on our heads, clanging the lids like cymbals, teething on the edges of her Tupperware.
And here is the folding mirror she carried in her purse. She had a white vinyl handbag in summer and a black one in winter, two variations on the same style with a pair of gold balls on top that slid past each other to snap it open and shut. Inside there were emery boards, toothpicks, Juicy Fruit gum, Kleenex, a plastic rain bonnet, and this very same folding mirror, opened a thousand times to apply red lipstick or make a quick touch-up with her eyebrow pencil. These she carried in her purse too, along with a compact of face powder and sandwich bags filled with Cheerios to keep us occupied in church.
I can still smell the inside of that purse. I can hear the sharp click as Mom snaps it shut and taste the sweet, fruity gum in my mouth.