Sunday, April 26, 2009
ANTOINETTE - A.K.A. TONI
It was one year ago today that Mom died.
"Antoinette. . . Why don’t you ever use your real name?” I asked Mom, whispering the word into the air, listening to the syllables float around the room like the warm, sugary, scent of cotton candy at a fair. I loved to roll it around on the tip of my tongue--tasting the sweetness, like a lollipop.
“Because,” she’d smile, giving me a sideways wink, “it doesn’t suit me. Toni is simple—like me.”
And, maybe Antoinette was a common name in Paris during the early years of the twentieth century, but people weren't named Antoinette back in 1932, at least not in Portland, Oregon.
“It’s French?” I laughed looking around our rundown house. “Your name came all the way from France?”
It sounded so European, important, and unique to a ten year old.
Grandma used to say, “We came from money”, as if she wanted us to know because we’d fallen so far.
See, Mom's Dad was the Vice President of a large oil company when he died, leaving my grandmother a wealthy woman. And, Mom made one mistake. At 16 she secretly married her first husband, Douglas. And, although he came from a wealthy family, he wasn't a good husband or father so she divorced him. Something Grandma never accepted.
Mom's second marriage wasn't considered "a good match" by her mother.
Dad was a poor pig farmer from Weiser, Idaho. And his Dad was born on an Indian Reservation in Oklahoma. Nothing to be proud of back then.
Maybe that's why Mom cared nothing for "things". Her joy came from spending time with people. And, Mom was the kindest person I've ever met. I never heard her say a negative thing about anyone--not ever. I know, it sounds hard to believe but it's true.
In some ways, it seems like just yesterday but, in other ways, it seems like forever ago that Mom died.
It always feels so odd not to be able to call her up whenever I have a question or something I'm worried about. She always had the answers.
Now, whenever I have something exciting I want to share, I think, "Oh I'll call Mom. . . "
Then I remember.