I had just sat down in the pew at church this morning with my family when a lady in my ward caught my attention and mouthed the words,
"Your mom is looking for you."
I glanced behind me to the doorway which separates the chapel and foyer, and saw my mom. She was wearing her pink "mother-of-the-bride" dress, which hangs loosely on her now, adorned with delicate beading on top of layers of chiffon. Underneath her short sleeved dress, she wore a long sleeved, pink cotton shirt. Thick, white cotton socks peeked out from underneath the hem of her dress. She wore the only shoes she ever wears: her brown, tennis-shoe-style Skechers that have velcro straps criss-crossing her foot. Her face was splotched with dark, orange foundation which stopped harshly at her jawline, contrasting her pale white neck and the areas she missed around her eyes and mouth. Her eyelids were smudged with dark, brown eyeshadow. Surely, she was a sight to see.
In our church, we separate ourselves by geographical boundaries into wards; think of it like boundaries for schools. Even though I live five minutes away from my parents, we attend different wards. At one time, before a boundary realignment, my parents were a part of this ward (so they know many of the church members in our ward); when the lines were redrawn, their neighborhood was put in the next ward over. However, we do attend the same building. Our congregation services overlap by 1/2 hour; my parent's ward is finishing up in their class just as our ward is arriving for our main meeting (called sacrament meeting). Mom always looks for me during this overlap time, so it was no surprise to see her in the doorway looking for me (although usually I catch her in the halls). To tell you the truth, I think it's sweet that she looks for me and I look forward to her finding me each week at church.
When I saw mom, I stood up and walked toward the doorway (we still had another minute or so until our service started, and I could tell she wanted to say hi). As I walked towards the back of the chapel, I glanced up and saw a new couple that I had never seen before in our ward (which goes without saying that they don't know me, or my mom). The husband turned his head towards the doorway and immediately I saw his eyes bulge open in wide surprise as he caught sight of my mom. He leaned over to his wife and whispered something in her ear and I saw her eyes move towards the doorway as well. They both looked at my mom, as if she were in some kind of freak show and instinctively I approached my mom and put a protective arm around her, turning her away from spectators. I gave her a hug and told her I was happy to see her. Of course she wasn't satisfied with my greeting alone; she wanted to see the kids too.
"Is that Jeff too? And where's Maurina and Am-Amber, is that them too?" she asked, peering back into the chapel.
She marched right into the chapel and stood, as the service was beginning and with everyone else around her sitting, in the pew where my family was sitting. She talked in a rather loud voice, greeting each of the kids and my husband. I followed in behind her and convinced her to sit down with us for a few minutes. The opening prayer was given and mom talked right through it,
"I used to know so many people in this ward, I don't remember so many people anymore but there was that one man who was a bishop so long ago and his wife too..." she continued to talk as I gently rubbed her arm and whispered to her that they were giving a prayer, suggesting that we should fold our arms and be quiet. She didn't follow my lead. Fortunately, a lot of people know my mom and are aware of her situation, so they simply smiled or pretended not to notice; I imagine some might have found it a bit amusing. But for those people who don't know my mom, I'm sure they were caught a little off guard with this bizarre woman.
After a couple of minutes, mom became restless and told me she was leaving back to her class. She abruptly got up and walked out of the chapel and when I turned back to watch her exit the room, I saw the couple look her again.
To be honest, I can't blame them for looking twice at my mom; she does stick out like a sore thumb. Admittedly, if I were in their shoes, I might do the same thing. I'm not embarrassed or ashamed of my mom in the least; obviously this is something she can't help. But as the congregation began to sing the next hymn, I found myself blinking back tears for my mom and swallowing a lump in my throat. My beautiful mother, in her right mind, would be completely embarrassed to be made a spectacle of. She always took great pride in her appearance. Thankfully, she is unaware of the attention she attracts when she leaves the house. I'm not mad that people turn their heads, but it hurts all the same; the pain is for my mom. This is definitely a learning experience for me. For one, I have to learn to have a thick skin; no easy task for a girl who was always pegged as being "over-sensitive". For another, I have definitely learned to think twice before I stare at or make assumptions about a person's appearance. You never know what battles a person is fighting.