Prior to this, I had last seen my mother naked 30 years ago and further back, walking in on her while she prepared for work or for bed, in pale flashes as she darted toward the laundry room in search of undergarments. I’ve seen my daughter in flashes too, but not full-on since adolescence, when her body became one of the secrets she kept from me.
Sometimes, I wonder how it would be if I had seen my mother naked. If she had said to me quietly, Saraleh, this is what a woman looks like. These stretches, these scars, these spider veins are beautiful and perfect.
I told my husband about the morning, the shock of seeing my mother’s body, and we laughed together. The absurdity of it! My mother – the Republican Methodist, who never swears, loves her poodle perm and Merle Norman, wears Easy Spirits and jeans that zip all the way up to her rib cage, who drinks Kahlua and cream but only on special occasions — greeting me at the door, naked! Amid the amusement, it came to me, suddenly and painfully, that I would likely never see my mother naked again. Not like that. Upright, on sturdy legs, unashamed and smiling. I felt it as deeply as if I had already lost her and was merely remembering the morning from a place far into the future. (I do that a lot. Grieve in advance so that when tragedy actually hits, I might get credit for the time I’ve already put in. It doesn’t work. I keep doing it.) Prematurely heartbroken over my mother’s death, I did what I always do when inconsolable. I made pie.