where does the color go?

threesomeHere are three exposures of a small quilt pinned to a curtain covering an eastern window.  Early morning light.  Not summer sun, but not winter sun either.  Opening the aperture gives the impression that the color is fading into white*.  But it’s more than that.  Back lighting the piece lets what resides in back to shine through.  I like both these ideas — fading into white and the hidden-coming-forward.

What is happening when ‘what is behind’ shows up? Could it parallel the Jungian process of owning the shadow?  Claiming a long-fended-off weakness or strength?  Could it be a metaphor for hearing from ‘the other side’?


I ask the otherworldly question because of that wool challis.  Well, that and because of need.  Sometimes in life, we just need our mothers.  It’s so simple a thing.  And so complicated.  And it’s true whether she’s around or not.

That maroon floral challis comes from a scarf which in its original, drapey, and fringed incarnation, belonged to my mother.  I wore it for a while after she died.  It was moth eaten on the edges and eventually I felted it and let it take its lovely place in my scrap bin.  Clearly, it means something more than ‘fuzzy’ and ‘maroon’ to me.  Placing a moon of my mother’s fiber above what to me is a mysterious door is no accident.  I have been thinking about her a lot lately.

Years ago when I showed my mother this tiny Gap vest (below), purchased while D. was in utero (middle boy in photo), she said, “Oh!  You’ve found his palette.”  That was signature Mom — pointing out the centrality of color to life and perhaps specifically to Mallon-life;  assuming we all have palettes;  recognizing that a mother might intuit her child’s colorways, even before he was born.  It was one of many moments in her last weeks that juxtaposed new life with dying in an excruciating way.


I’d give almost anything to hear one of her honest and shrewd observations right now – no matter how brutal.  She had a knack for that.  Making pithy observations that knocked you over.  In the moment, I might hate her…  insist she was wrong… loudly argue back or scoff at her sources.  But many times out of ten (I refuse to quantify), I’d have to at some later point admit that she was right — even when the source was Cosmopolitan Magazine (Damn You, Mom!!).

Sometimes the judgment was something I could run with.  It all depended.

So, yeah (as my nineteen year old might say), I have been wishing for my mother’s ‘take’ on things — specifically, on this messy business of parenting teenagers.  Once we got over what would undoubtedly be her smug satisfaction at my getting a little of what I dished out, I’m sure she’d have valuable and specific insights to offer. She’d say things I haven’t thought of yet.  She’d offer reality-based optimism that would make me feel better and would make me feel better about my kids and their futures.  She’d call me a worry wart and laugh.  Pearls of wisdom would be dispensed like sticks of gum (no big deal).  She’d casually address every single thing that is ‘up’ right now — resilience (or its absence), stubbornness, fear, and the unpredictable paths of talent — without having to ask a single question.


February 13th marked the 17th anniversary of my mother’s death.  I only know the number of years off the top of my head because she died five weeks before D. was born.  Right now, I always know how old my boys are.  Seventeen.  Nineteen.  I suppose that could change, like everything else does.  I hope not for a long time, though.

Red-ribsThis hung on the west window of my bedroom last week.  Here, red threads were stitched in prayer (as has been talked about here and there on blogs that matter to me (links later)).  This thread was dyed in India, purchased in Colorado about this time last year, and stitched onto white, then covered with a grey/white silk.  You don’t really see the red lines when the cloth comes off the curtain.  They’re still there, of course.

That says something on this topic of mothering, doesn’t it?  Something about the strands of love that connect us, whether we see them or not, whether they’re live or remembered.  These red threads could also represent the strands of genetic code that determine, in part, who we are… representing that strange, perplexing and miraculous way that some aspects of person get tugged through the generations… binding one group to the next (and the next) whether willing or aware, or not.

And then again, it is a series of red threads.

* Like yesterday’s post, “Meditation on White”, I am inspired here in large measure by the online class over at Spirit Cloth

11 thoughts on “where does the color go?

  1. cynthia craig

    hello…this is cynthia from jude’s what if class..i am sitting here in a big purple chair, facing east and watching the sun change the colors of my world..i came over here to thank you for your words and to tell you how you made me laugh when i saw the ” part lament, part hallelujah, part sigh of exhaustion”…you were so right on point…and instead i have simply been sitting here reading and rereading where does the color go

    your work is so beautiful…somehow mingling both intuition and intention in a clear heartfelt voice…and your words are the same..a strong echo? a duet?…but oh then ..the cosmopolitan……it makes her so real..and i am smiling all over again through the words of loss

    and as i sit here thinking about what you have written, birdsong begins the room beins to lighten and i can see on my left wrist the intricately knotted deep red threads of the bracelet my niece tied there..forever ago..

    there were no children of my very own here…my niece and nephew were shared with great love and kindness by my sister, my mother’s words guided me through years as i finally realized there would only be children of my heart instead…..helping me ..still…strange to realize ..for all the love that is there…and there is much…that there are still these small tattered places that emerge…lately i have been priveledged to see women i love dearly glow from within as they become grandmothers ..the glow turning to radiance as they actually hold these small new beings..and i go home and it is like finding a moth hole in an unoticed spot on a loved and worn old sweater..you didn’t know the empty space would be there and you are not quite prepared..

    that laura tied the bracelet on my wrist and kissed my forehead as she returned from far far away…so much of my mother in her small sweet face…it was such a moment of reunion

    anyway..here i am not just giving thanks for kind words but also happy that you have entered my life..

  2. patricia

    hi Dee. well! i’m going on 66 so my kids are much older than yours. but they were once teenagers too. two years apart. and it’s very easy although not tempting to remember those years. i was a single parent. it was–if i said HARD that would minimize it–but i’ll use that word. now, today. sitting here w/o there immediate presence, i have the luxury of reflection. forever i thought that their behavior/attitude etc. was about me. i thought that whole stretch of time/life was simply about how hard it was for me. as though they were intentionally “tormenting” me. i’m seeing this right now for the very first time. it was not about me–at all. my god. why haven’t I seen this before. it was THEIR crucial passage and i just happened to share it. they were finding there way–slashing through a jungle so dense with growth they needed a machete. they were determined to find their way. sometimes i probably appeared to be the “dense growth” in their path. they had spirit. unbounded drive to survive. they were probably a bit frightened as well. oh, that i’m getting it for the first time.

  3. Anonymous

    Dee. Your post about your mom touches me so. As I sat just yesterday at a college information session for parents of incoming freshmen for this Fall’s class with my daughter, my heart ached, wishing my mom was there with us.
    Not a day goes by that I don’t long for her wisdom, her wit, her presence.
    I feel so lost as a daughter who has lost her mom, and now as a mom who is about to lose her daughter (so to speak) to college – caught, as you say, between the strands of love both alive…..and remembered.
    As for your cloth, with the meditative vein, it’s lovely.
    It belongs on the window – so you can see its soul.

  4. saskia

    oh Dee what an intimate post; many thoughts and feelings (which are perhaps the same thing) fight for attention and I’m not sure I’ll be able to sort them completely. So I’ll start by saying how much I LOVE the small quilt, even before I read about it, the door is so full of promise: the idea of being able to enter the quilt to who knows where?!
    and then parenting and motherhood, ugh; my mother is still alive and as she shies away from true intimacy with me little advice about raising the boys is forthcoming nor would I welcome it; I think her inability to see me stems from her troubled relationship with her mother,(who died at the age of 56, my mother was about 21) although I can only guess about that as my mother has never been able to talk about her not really, not with me anyway. This grandmother who I have never known has stood between us all our lives, it seems to me and our relationship is okay-ish, there is polite (and physical) distance and no real connection. I know looking at your own pain isn’t easy, but it is necessary for your own salvation and you cannot keep looking away all your life; I see my mother doing exactly that and therefore we are where we are.
    Believe me if I say I have tried over the years to become closer, I’ll spare you the details.
    I am so relieved we have boys, two sons like you, they’re 14 and 16 and I’m so glad their father is in the picture too: his input and outlook on life is all important, especially as they are boys, young men almost who need us both so much. Of course I make mistakes, but I don’t shy away from my pain and my fears (and maybe they’ll blame me for that later on in life) and hopefully the boys will look at their own lives with more optimism thanks to my worries, if that makes sense…I do find my husband worries far less, if at all, than I do, that is why he’s so important to them, also they like the same kind of action packed movies and games and they enjoy junk food, like I could never ever, so together we’re a family including the dog!! wading through the challenges,and riding the beautiful waves.
    What helps me through it all (apart from blogging and commenting etc.) is learning to leave them be and TRUST them; my husband’s famous words of wisdom and comfort: everything is going to be allright

  5. deedeemallon

    it is morning and I am moved to near-silence by these comments. Midday dictates various non-responsive activities, but let me express (again) my gratitude for cyber-friends, rag-mates, fellow mothers/aunts, and the act of taking the time to say something back. Intimate things. Supportive and insightful things. Things my mother might have said.

    thank you. thank you.

  6. handstories

    that last photo touches me, as do your words. thinking of my own mixed feelings about my mother. those times when i want my mom, but why? she is usually not the mom I’ve needed, i think she wanted/wants to be, but doesn’t know how. but still there is a pull or longing for her at times, perhaps some of that genetic code you mention. this tangle of red threads. thank you for this post.

  7. Anonymous

    I am continually reminded of the O’Mara quote “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice. ” Sometimes I think that the best you can do is give them this – a good inner voice – because down the line, for whatever reason, they will try to conjure some good advice of their own – and Dee, it will be your voice they are hearing in their head. For good or bad, the intention is good, and that is what counts in the long run.

  8. Pingback: Glitches, patience, and white as an attitude | Dee Mallon and Cloth Company

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