She lay completely still, motionless. She was beautiful, and unequivocally the best Mother in the world (I knew this because they told me only the good die young, so…).
The bottom half of her torso was covered by the polished oak of her coffin, and I reached out to touch her face, her eyelids to be exact.
It was something I was accustomed to doing when she slept. I would call to her, trying to wake her, to no avail. I would get very close to her face, hearing her breath, and then slowly pull her upper eyelid up to wake her. The brown circle of iris floating around in the back of her socket, searching. Always searching. My actions would wake her suddenly, her pupils zinging back into place looking rightly outward at me, focused. Focused on me. I was selfish like that. Despite having a younger and older sister, I was mostly consumed with having all of my Mother’s attention. She never got mad at me, or shooed me away when I poked and prodded such a delicate part of her face. She would either fully wake up, or pull me into her sleepy world with her, wrapping me in her dreamy love.
My Father pulled my tiny fingers away from her before they made any contact. I am thankful for that. Knowing what I know now about the deceased, I do not want to live with the memory of feeling her cold waxy skin, the seams that held her eyelids shut and her crumbling body together.
But she was more than just my Mother; I figured it out as I stared at her lying there. I wondered how I had not known it before (why hadn’t she told me!?). There was no rising chest, no heavy sleepy exhale I was so used to. It all made sense to me there, standing in the room full of as many flower filled vases as there were people. I gripped the sides of her casket with as many fingers that matched my age -5. The realization came flooding over me, washing through me. It was then that I understood the situation completely. She was sleeping beauty. Not just A sleeping beauty, THE Sleeping Beauty. The one I had watched nearly nightly on VHS. She would only be woken by true love, and in the few months we lived apart from my Father during their separation, I knew he was not her true love.
Everyone around me was crying, sobbing really.
“She was so young.”
“I never got to say goodbye.”
“What a tragedy”
“Who could have done this to a mother of three young children?”
“What about the girls? Who is going to raise them? Surely not…”
The remarks swirled through the air high above my head, and I couldn’t quite find the words to tell them but…this was all a misunderstanding. All they had to do was kiss her. No one kissed her. Everything was confusing except that one idea. Just kiss her.
She would sit up suddenly, dazed, but well rested. She would glide off of her raised platform and dance around the room – filled with pure love and delight. Mother wasn’t much of a singer; therefore I wasn’t counting on the fully orchestrated Disney soundtrack results. Nonetheless, her sleepy spell would slowly flake off, rheum crumbling from the corners of her eyes revealing a renewed life, a renewed sense of self.
Realizing that Mother was really Sleeping Beauty, that she lay peacefully awaiting for true love’s kiss made all the difference to me. She wasn’t gone, not really. Walt Disney provided the proof to me that everything would come together; this wasn’t forever. Walt Disney coddled me away from any reality, a reality that would further divide my family. Walt Disney lulled me into the dreamy state that I would never see my Mother in again.
Because no one kissed her.