The ornate iron gate swings open like a beckoning arm. I walk the long driveway lined with sharp-thorned roses, up the hill, and through the heavy door. I head for the living room, where my mother sits below a silver-framed Hockney, ordering servants every which way.
“Yes, Miss Ava” they utter in various accents, as one lights my mother’s cigarette and another brings her a Chivas on the rocks.
“I said a crystal glass, damnit! What is wrong with you!?!!!”
Tell you what – she was an alcoholic with dementia, the bitch, and a brilliant narcissist to boot. And I’ll tell you something else – she ruined my fucking life in some ways, the bitch, stole my dreams when she ripped the rug out from under my acting career, silenced my first glorious chance to sing, all because I was young and pretty and she was competitive and could – she was a bitch to be sure.
Bitches be damned! But on the other hand – bitches be glorified – for how else could a woman in my mother’s time go from picking cotton to the top of Beverly Hills? She was a bitch who shined like diamonds, a bitch to be celebrated, a bitch to be praised! Bitches – the only true thrivers in a world designed for men. So rise up formidable bitches like Ava, bitches like me, her daughter, half-bitch to be sure – And rise up, all you powerful young bitches – stretch your wing span and break that glass, dance on clouds and grab tomorrow – it’s YOUR turn NOW.
I’m trying to tell this story objectively, I’m trying to stop remembering when I took her down from that golden mansion to the sweet old folks’ home with music, and we sang “What A Friend We Have in Jesus,” over and over. I’m trying not to think of her SMILE as she lay dying and my otherworldly confidence when I managed to say to her, “Everything’s going to be okay, Mama.”
On Mother’s Day, I sent flowers. The florist texted me a photo of the lavender roses atop my mama’s grave. And just a few moments later, a tiny sparrow flew in through my bedroom window.
When I was a little girl, I caught a hummingbird in one of Grandma’s mason jars.
I didn’t know it would die because it couldn’t fly. My Grandma canned strawberries. She wasn’t a bitch.