Word for Word, Images of My Mother

By Anna Edmondson
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, May 14, 2007

In a small pocket of my coat I found an unevenly folded scrap of paper. The note read, poemlike, in large, blue handwriting:

(Insect Zoo)

Change train at

Gallery Place

(go to lower level)

take train to National Archives

Museum of Natural History

I was transported back to that cold, wet December day a year before my mother died, when she had thoughtfully suggested an excursion to the Smithsonian's Insect Zoo.

She stood by the wood-block kitchen counter lined with objects as familiar to me as the contours of my own hands: the bowl of rubber bands, a tasteful coffee mug packed tight with pencils and pens, an African basket filled with pears and tangerines. She wore her brown corduroy gardening pants, a long-sleeve purple T-shirt, New Balance sneakers from a morning walk with my father and silver earrings with bright orange beads and old, soft Arab coins, the inscriptions faded but visible.

My mother wrote the directions on a legal pad, purposeful and deliberate. Her heavy Mexican silver bracelet dangled as her hand moved across the page. Something had been written earlier at the top of the paper; perhaps a shopping list, a reminder to call a friend, or one of her many personal affirmations. Economical, she tore off the lower two-thirds of the page for me.

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