Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cold Moon? Wolf Moon? Cold Wolf Moon.

Moon #1

19 January 2011
Cold Moon? Wolf Moon? Cold Wolf Moon.

Wednesday evening. A huge moon appears in the east. As it rises above the trees and city skyline, it's as large as any Harvest Moon ever was, but the colors of sunset are missing. It's just white. Just white? That makes it sound like it's less, that it's worse, that it's lacking, and it's just another color. No better. No worse. Just different. Well it does have a tendril or two of yellow emanating from the somewhat mother-of-pearl iridescence, but I'm still calling it white. Can you tell I've been nursing a mood, one that I really need to step away from?

Some call this the Cold Moon. That certainly fits, especially here and in this season. Others call it a Wolf Moon, maybe because wolves howl at this one. We have no wolves left this side of the zoo so I'll just have to infer from the reports of another time. I'm going with Cold Wolf Moon because that better fits me, this day, this evening, this month, this season.

It doesn't help that yesterday was, oh yes, my 58th birthday. Fifty-eight long Earth years, with no sign of the returning mothership to be found. I suspect I'm here for the duration. You may be sad now.

This birthday was a little different. For years, at 5:30 AM on my birthday because that's when I first woke her, my mother has called to sing Happy Birthday to me, but this year, she did not call. Why? Was I naughty? No. My mother lives in darkness. Aging is not being kind to her.

I called her, and Buck answered. Mama does not answer the phone anymore. Buck and I chatted a bit, and then he started the song, and Mama joined in about halfway through it. Some things can roust her from the fog briefly, and I suppose hearing Buck sing is one of those things. We then agreed to meet for lunch, which they call “dinner,” this coming Saturday, and we said our goodbyes. Mama had already faded away by then.

Like most sons, and especially the gay ones, I do not view my mama as an ordinary woman. Our mamas love us when no one else will.

We do not know her age because her birth was not recorded, not even in a family bible, just in the memory of the one older sister who attested to a remembered birth when Mama decided it was time to file for Social Security. I suppose this can happen when siblings are counted in double digits.

The family sent Mama to an orphanage at the age of three. Her mother had died. Her father was overwhelmed by all the children, and because the rest of the family didn’t like the father, they rejected the children. His apparent sin was riding a white horse to the family house, the one on the dirt road, while wearing a military uniform, sweeping my grandmother up to the saddle, and then taking her off to marry. The others saw him as uppity on that horse and in that uniform, or maybe they just remembered Reconstruction.

Mama survived in a manner all her own at the orphanage. The girls were forbidden to use nail polish. Doing so was a sin, you surely know. Mama painted her toenails red and wore socks.

Mama tells the story of the day some old rich woman from Raleigh (her words, not mine) came to the orphanage to give all the children a silver dollar to spend at the State Fair. Such a magnanimous act, it was. The children, gathered in the dining hall, were bouncing the coins on the tables, making a big racket. The housemothers called for silence so the generous old rich woman from Raleigh could speak.

There Mama sat in the hard dining room chair, silver dollar in hand, thinking to herself at the tender age of five that she came into that orphanage with nothing more than her dignity, and she would for damn sure leave with it if nothing else.

Still her words, I assure you.

She raised her hand in the silence and dropped the coin. The plinking sound riveted all attention on her, and the coin with its included trip to the fair was lost. Years later, she always made sure that my brother and I went to the fair on opening day to eat foot-long hotdogs. I still have recurring dreams of those visits, $25, a king's ransom for me in 1960, in hand.

A decade ago as I described some church service that had all the appeal of vivisection, Mama let me in on her dark secret. Her eyes twinkled as she spoke only to me in a hushed whisper. When we sing the songs, she said with a stifled giggle, I add “between the sheets” to the words. I turned my head slowly to fully see this woman as I parsed again the words she surely could not have said as she started to sing “Amazing Grace” with strategically placed umm-hmm-umm-hmms sounded for my benefit.

So Saturday, I will leave the apartment early enough to stop for flowers. I'll most likely select a dozen yellow roses with a slight pink tinge about the edges. Yellow was always her favorite color, and the yard was always full of roses, red, yellow, and otherwise, purchased on a Saturday afternoon from the nursery in Angier near the IGA where we bought groceries for the coming week with the cash she had earned the previous week by scrubbing heads in her little beauty shop.

She will take forever to throw out the bouquet, she always does, and this dozen will sit on her table for weeks until the last petal falls, if not longer, and even then, she will be slow to throw them out and sad when she does. No matter how withered, she will speak of how beautiful they are. She does not see the flowers as they are; she sees them as they were.

And there is how I have to see her as she slides further into darkness and surely fades away.


  1. This tugs so hard at my heartstrings, Jim. I say again, you are a fine writer.

    My full moon looked just like yours, right down to the iridescent, pale yellow streak.

    Sending you a virtual hug, friend.

  2. Oh my goodness, this should have come with instructions: read with tissues! Beautiful.