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Writerly Wednesday

James Ensor Old Lady with Blue Shawl (1881)



 Stolen Moments 



Dorothy stroked the soft hand-crocheted shawl draped over the back of her mother’s rocking chair.  Her mother had had it for as long as she could remember. Once a brilliant blue, it had faded with time.   Elizabeth walked into the room with three tea cups and arranged them on the end stand.  The china clinked, fragile and empty. Her eyebrows furrowed as she gazed at Dorothy. 

“The girl,” She waved toward the kitchen, “is making tea. Margaret, I think.”

“Maggie.”

“Ah yes, that’s right. I just can’t keep them straight these days.”  She sat, hands folded primly in her lap.  “Now then, I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?”

Dorothy had learned a long time ago to go with her mother’s flights of fancy.  She smiled. “It’s Dot.”

“You’re a friend of my daughter? Where did she go?”

“She’s out in the garden.”

Maggie bustled into the room with a silver tea service tray and set it on the coffee table. “So there are our tea cups. You had me wondering darlin’ where they went.”

Her mother flipped a hand, “Thank you, you’re dismissed.”

“Yes mum.” Maggie winked at Dorothy. “We’re in a bit of royal mood today. Mind your p’s and q’s.”  She did a far imitation of a courtesy, poured the tea and handed a cup to Elizabeth.  She chuckled as she left.

Dorothy poured a cup for herself, and settled back in the rocking chair.  She lifted a corner of the shawl, rubbed it against her cheek.  Her mother’s jasmine fragrance clung to the material.  She inhaled, the scent taking her back to the days of old, wrapped together in her mother’s arms, loving away a child’s pain.  The magic shawl, her mother used to say.  It soothed the hurts, comforted the sick and kept away the wallygogs.  She never quite figured out what that meant.

“I made that, you know.” 

“Yes, it’s beautiful”

“When I was pregnant with my Dorothy, everyone else was knitting booties.” She rolled her eyes.  “Not my style. I finished it the day of her birthday.  A princess blanket for my princess.”

Dorothy sucked in a breath, her hand tightening on the shawl.  She closed her eyes against the sting of tears.  A memory her mother had never shared or it could be a new one made up to fill in holes in her mind.  She preferred the former, hoped it was true.

“She wore it for her wedding; so beautiful.  I have a picture somewhere.”  Her mother rummaged through the shelves.  

“Yes, I remember.”  Dorothy chuckled.  Her something borrowed, something blue.  It had looked hideous with her wedding dress, but it had been important to Elizabeth.

“Ah, here it is.” She pulled out a photo album and patted the cushion beside her.  “Come, look.”

Dorothy rose, pulled the shawl off the back of the chair and draped it over her mother’s narrow shoulders.  Elizabeth leaned against her shoulder, the album on both their laps.  She opened the book to a random page, eyed the pictures, shook her head and flipped through more pages.

Dorothy laid her hand over her mom’s to still it.  “What are you looking for, perhaps I can help.”

“It’s not here.”  A shiver ran through her mom’s frail body.

“Oh mama.”  Dorothy rearranged the shawl over both their shoulders and cuddled against her mother. After a few minutes, Elizabeth took her hand and stroked the ring on Dorothy’s finger.

“I gave this to you on your eighteenth birthday. Do you remember why?”

Dorothy closed her eyes for a moment. “Yes, do you?”

Her mother chuckled, “I may be old, but not stupid Dorothy Myers.”  She leaned back and gazed at Dorothy with lucid, life filled eyes.  “I feel asleep on you again, didn’t I?”

For just a few minutes. I love you mom.”

“I love you too, my princess Dorothy.”

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