I wrote this poem for a rhymezone (online rhyming dictionary) poetry contest (it’s a free contest, and those are like the Holy Grail), the theme being “Understanding”. I’m not sure if I chose the right title, but I’m going with it. I thought “Parenthood, Understood” might be too literal, so I went with “Snapshots”, as in flashbacks.
It’s autobiographical, and mostly unrhymed. Perhaps that was why it flowed so easily through my fingertips.
It’s a bit long, but writing it brought to mind of something June Cleaver said to the Beav. When he was trying to write about his dad, to make him seem more interesting, June said that instead of writing about what his father did, to write about how he felt about him. That scene when the Beaver is reading his essay to Ward, still makes me misty-eyed.
Though my dad was a SAHM (stay-at-home dad), this poem is about my mom, too.
The night you brought me home,
I cannot remember.
The day you gave me my first bath,
I remember only what you told me—
that I held my breath till I turned purple,
and then you splashed me (gently) in the face,
The day I took my first steps,
you cheered me on,
like you’d never seen it done.
I know, for I’ve seen the pictures.
The day I got sick and almost passed away,
when I wanted nothing more than apple juice
and a ride around in a wheelchair
with my redheaded Cabbage Patch named Michelle on my lap.
I remember that.
You told me Dad was there, with me,
as you were outside the door,
for you could not bear to hear my screams as they gave me a spinal tap.
I’m glad I don’t remember the pain,
only frayed fragments in golden hues—
the good things that remained.
I remember Kelly Morgan, my brother, was born around then,
and how I wished he’d been a girl.
The hearing on my left side was gone, and I,
not understanding that my world could have become a silent one.
I was not afraid as you were,
for I knew not enough to be afraid.
I remember when you took me to the private school with the clean walls,
and the playground with the skyscraping, spiral slide that was a terrifying vortex;
the school where all the teachers wore dresses and
where our hands had to be folded at our desks during quiet time,
the sound of the principal’s heels echoing down the hall.
Every morning, Dad would take me to Delchamps,
for a chocolate milk and a brownie for breakfast,
because eggs made me gag and he always burned the bacon.
I remember the days you picked me up from the public school,
so I wouldn’t have to sit on the smelly schoolbus,
horrid in the humid, Floridian clime,
kids scrawling with their fingers on the grimy windows,
windows covered with condensation,
making the glass appear frosted,
the inside like a giant snow globe,
the weak sunlight filtering in,
hazy like snow.
I remember the green vinyl seats were sticky in the heat,
the muddied dirt tracked in the aisles, catching in the grooves—
the long space imbued with a damp, earthy smell,
like mold, and clothes that had been washed and left too long.
I didn’t want to sit with the boy with the perpetual comb,
I didn’t want to sit with Melinda Sue,
I wanted to sit with you.
I remember all the times you took me to the bookstore in the mall,
always wanting the newest Babysitters Club book.
You instilled in me a love for reading,
for you read to me all the nursery rhymes—
stories of birds flying out of pies
and children living out of shoes.
Whenever you’d read to me, “Little Boy Blue”,
and you’d get to the part where he’d cry,
I’d beg you to stop reading,
with a tear in my eye.
I remember you wouldn’t let me watch “Married with Children”,
but instilled within me a love for old movies and glamour long gone,
of country music that sounded like country.
I discovered ABBA on my own,
but I wouldn’t have had it any other way,
for many of those things you showed me,
I love still today.
You introduced me to Pollyanna and Shirley Temple,
Candyland and Rainbow Brite,
with some Strawberry Shortcake on the side.
You laughed with me at Bullwinkle, let me love Lucy,
and watch Nickelodeon, back when it was good.
I never had a dollhouse,
but neither did I go without.
The fewer things I wanted, but could not have,
the more my imagination grew.
I appreciate that now,
as I could not then.
Plain white paper became snowflakes,
snowing confetti on the floor,
so the living room became a wonderland.
I was like Elsa, before Elsa came to be.
Then there were the endless guessing games,
games that drove Mom crazy,
and all the times you helped me with school projects
that didn’t make any sense to me,
some not even to you.
I remember all the summers you drove me up to Poplar Bluff,
to let me stay with my grandparents and be near extended family,
so that I could experience what you once had.
I don’t remember all the burned meals you served me,
but I know they sustained me.
I don’t remember every time you took me to a friend’s,
but I remember how friends were hard enough to make.
I don’t remember all the times I made you angry,
but it was never enough to strike,
and that wasn’t because I wasn’t so bad,
it was because you were so good.
I remember my high school graduation,
but I more remember you taking me to Mr. Manatee’s restaurant downtown,
now gone after Hurricane Ivan,
just ashes a-blowing in the wind.
I remember the day you came to my wedding,
even though I cannot remember your face,
for so focused was I on Brian,
thinking that life would never be the same,
for it marked the day it was time to put away childish things.
I remember you coming to the hospital when Hannah Beth was born,
but it was just my husband I wanted in the delivery room—
so many different kinds of love in one room,
it was like everything wonderful and happening all at once.
I still see you so often,
for you live just down the road.
I am so glad you get to know Hannah.
I know now I love her in a way you love me,
and you love her in the way your parents’ did.
The times I was away and didn’t call and you worried…
I’m sorry I didn’t understand your anger then.
No, I never knew how much you loved me,
till I became a parent myself.
But wait, that isn’t right…I knew all along–
the only difference now is that I understand.