My Mother’s Special Sneeze


I think about my mother a lot this time of year. She would have been 100 years old last month. She was 86 when she died.The reason I think about her this time of year is because of all the dust and pollen in the air. It makes me sneeze several times a day.

My mother had a special sneeze. It started in the bottoms of her feet, I think, and gradually worked its way up through her body. When it erupted, it was more like an explosion, and you could hear it a block away. Seriously. The guy across the street stopped in the middle of mowing his lawn once when my mother sneezed. He cocked his head trying to figure out what he heard. Then he shrugged and continued mowing.

We always knew when Mom was working on a sneeze because she would suddenly stop whatever she was doing and stand perfectly still. Then she would narrow her eyes as though trying to focus on some forgotten memory. We would watch, transfixed as she drew in a deep breath, closed her eyes and opened her mouth.

She only sneezed once. Then she would tidy up her nose with a Kleenex and continue with whatever she had been doing before. I once asked her how it felt to sneeze like that and why she kept her mouth open. She said it felt like she was being turned inside out.

“And I don’t dare close my mouth,” she said. “I’m afraid if I did, my face would blow off.”

My sneezes are pretty robust too. I don’t think they are the caliber of my mother’s, but I keep my mouth open, just in case.

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