Four days later, while I was sitting in a classroom fighting with statistics, Odetta moaned her bluest song in my mind: Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child.
I did. I was. Then I wept for a long time.
The storms and rains that caused mimosas to explode gloriously in brash, happy, puffy, sunny, perfumed yellow orbs, seeped through stone and the wall of a storage closet in the garage. A shelf collapsed, spilling its contents; who knows when and for how long it sat in water… long enough for mildew to eat paper, for cardboard to disintegrate, and for color to die.
While sorting through the waste, I found a small artist portfolio buried under a chess board. Dusty with mold and wet, it could no longer protect what was inside and ruined: charcoal studies of bottles; a watercolor landscape of the Congo River; an attempt at catching the smile of my firstborn in sepia; several portraits of women with huge, soulful eyes in watercolor; an orange and blue abstract filled with primitive symbols… all signed by my mother.
She never talked about her painting or drawing. I did not know the woman who wanted to fix wonder to paper, to keep it forever, to remember it when the reality of it was long gone. I would have loved that woman even more.
Odetta is in my mind again. I am twice a Motherless Child.