chocolate is a verb

colors, flavors, whims and other growing things

perfect

Dorothy age 2Not yet three years old, Dorothy — they would have called her Dottie — sits motionless and polished for her portrait. Her shoes — spats? — and lace-trimmed dress and the tiny finger ring on her right hand, even the portrait itself, speak of privilege and a degree of “perfection” that would be a burden to my mother throughout her life.

Before long, the darling toddler, who could be doll-dressed and encouraged to smile for a morsel of praise, had unmanageable red, curly hair and buck teeth. Her mother (who, to her credit, turned out to be a wonderful grandmother) already favored her firstborn son and couldn’t bring herself to embrace this messy, imperfect girl.

Distanced by her mother, teased by her brother, Dottie invested her hopes in her father: the youngest of ten children, a good-hearted joker who was coddled as the “baby” of the family throughout his life. He was playful and kind to her, but his work and the child-rearing practices of the day — children were “seen, not heard” — kept him at a distance. At any rate, he was no match for his more serious and imperious wife, who made and enforced the rules and set the expectations that the young Dorothy was never able to achieve.

Her life was shaped by that duality — perfect girl on one hand, zany misfit on the other — and the long, painful search for unconditional love.

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4 responses to “perfect

  1. Marsha July 6, 2015 at 10:04 am

    What goes around comes around (sometimes unfortunately)

  2. kristin July 6, 2015 at 10:46 am

    Poor little girl. Just going by your writings about your mother, this seems to explain a lot.

  3. Carey Taylor July 7, 2015 at 9:45 am

    In the unpacking of a “mother”, if we are lucky, we get to a place of empathy where we understand a bit better their story. It doesn’t change our story, or how they went with us, but it can allow us to step aside and see the fuller trajectory that shapes a life. You do a wonderful job of writing about the complicated relationship women often have with this most primal relationship.

  4. jik July 7, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Thank you so much, Carey. I really appreciate your attention and your comments!

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