#Fiction Friday: #Micropoetry from the Book

Mormoni

Faith was the acceptance
of things that could not be proven,
& hope that our faith
would get us those things
from that which could not be proven.

He’d wanted no children,
but he would have them
for salvation’s sake,
for his wife’s happiness,
& because,
in the Church,
conception was akin to birth.

In Catholicism, God was everywhere;
in Mormonism, He was not.
He’d gone from limitless
to contained
as the sole Ruler
of this world,
in an eternity of worlds.

My friend Brad would’ve given up the priesthood for me,
David, his own soul,
but Elder Roberts,
not even his reputation;
I had meant that little to him.

If my heart was hardened,
had God Himself hardened it—
like He had Pharaoh’s—
to bring about His work?
Was not autonomy an illusion?

 

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#Fiction Friday: #Novelines from the Book

Mormoni

The clicking of laptop keyboards in a haze of coffee semi-consciousness lent a collegiate atmosphere to the bookstore.

I shelved the thought of Elder Roberts, like a book I had read as a child & had gone back to, only to find I had outgrown it.

In Mormonism, there was a Heavenly Mother, & I often wondered if that was the other part of “we” God spoke of collectively in Genesis.

I’d hidden Elder Roberts’ letter in David’s first edition of Gone with the Wind, for I felt the title exemplified our forbidden love.

Sometimes you chose to let go of those you loved, but you didn’t let them go if you believed you could make them happy.

Elder Roberts was enlisted in “God’s Army,” but I was a captain of David’s, defending his world as Elder Roberts spoke of the one to come.

Whenever Sister Schafer mentioned wine (which she called “strong drink”), the emphasis was always on “new,” meaning unfermented.

Mother spoke of this mysterious “burning in the bosom” which she claimed was the Spirit that testified of the truthfulness of all things.

#Fiction Friday: #Novelines from the Book

Mormoni

The temple was the Kingdom of God on Earth, the home, the second most sacred space, but under the banner of Heaven, I was closest to what I thought God was.

Pink, candy cotton clouds were spread across the periwinkle sky to the west, & I wondered for the first time how anyone could gaze upon such creation & not wonder if it all had a Creator.

The Church had made me think about God more.  Though I knew there was something more, I didn’t know what that something was.

Mother had never seemed so proud of me, perhaps because, for the first time in my life, it had been her I had tried to please.

Everything I had ever done had only been for David, but forsaking my lack of faith, I had done for her.

Memories of life before Mormonism seemed long ago, & I wondered if I was finding myself in the Church, losing myself in it, or simply finding a way to be lost.

Like mass hypnosis, during Fast & Testimony meetings, members would go up to the podium & testify of the truthfulness of the gospel.

I’d never understood why God gave his children weaknesses to overcome, for did not mortal parents try to prevent such things?

Once Tony married Kath, he would be able to burn off his passion in a way that was acceptable to God, so he would not burn for eternity.

Why I Tell My Daughter She’s Beautiful

20180513_130632

When I mentioned to someone I trusted that my daughter was getting genetically tested, I explained, “To find out why she is the way she is.”

It was never to “figure out what’s wrong with her,” because I don’t see anything wrong.  She isn’t broken, in need of fixing, but rather, in need of additional guidance and patience to help her be the best person she can be.  Just like I needed math tutors last semester.

All test results were normal, though I’ve been asked by many people (all health professionals) if she was autistic.  She is definitely somewhere on the spectrum, but on the high-functioning end.

When my mother was alive, all she saw was her specialness, not her special needs.  “That’s just who she is,” she would say, because for her, and for me, and for all who love her, it was that whole unique and wonderfully-made thing.

*

My child has the most incredible memory, whereas mine is pretty crappy.  Sometimes I ask my husband if he remembers if I ate anything for breakfast.  I feel like Kelly Bundy from “Married With Children” in that episode where she loses a fact every time she gains a fact, because there’s only so much space in her airhead; she forgets on a game show a football trivia question about her father–something about these things called touchdowns.

However, a memory like my daughter’s has its challenges.  It took me forever to get her to unlearn “shit,” after my parents thought it was freaking hilarious when she tipped out of her Minnie Mouse chair and said, “Awww, shit!”  When they told me about it, I couldn’t help but laugh, even though I admonished her later that young ladies don’t use that word.

That’s said, salty language and an overabundance of sweet snacks are truly the stuff of grandparents.

*

My daughter also has an incredible ear for sounds–she actually corrected the teacher on the difference between a helicopter and an airplane.  As much as I would love for her thing to be words, I believe it will be music.

*

When a “neurologist” (I’m not even sure what she was, she didn’t even bother introducing herself or familiarizing herself with my child’s medical record before her appointment) said that our daughter’s face had a trace of dysmorphia, my husband got pissed while I got so upset, I started crying.

On the way home, I kept looking back for some trace of what this woman saw, but all I saw was this stunningly beautiful little girl with perfectly symmetrical features and enviable blue eyes.  I like to joke with my dad that all other kids looked like dogs after I had mine (not really, but parents are biased).

*

I know it’s a Thing for girls to want to be superheroes over princesses, to major in STEM, and for their parents to praise their strength rather than their beauty, and I get some of that, but there will be plenty of people in my daughter’s life who will say something unkind.  It is my job–my calling–as her mother, to build her up without tearing others down.

My mom grew up thinking she was ugly because her mom never told her she was pretty (and she was!), and so my mom always told me I was–even when I was going through this hideous awkward stage where I looked like the female (and brunette) version of that bully in A Christmas Story.  (At least I did in one of my school pictures.)  Of course, I believed Mom only said that because she was my mother, but I know she meant it, too.

That said, my mom always told me that her grandmother told her that “Pretty is as pretty does.”  I let my daughter know when she is being ugly, just as I tell her that she is strong and smart and all those other things.

*

I’m not blind to my daughter’s quirks, but it rubbed me the wrong way when the people at the center seemed like they were trying to push us into “family planning” (like to have another one like the one I have would be so horrible).  I don’t even like the way “family planning” sounds,  and I don’t practice it.  I don’t feel that way because a man in the Vatican or a bunch of men in Salt Lake don’t believe in it (Jesus died for me, they didn’t), but it’s my personal, spiritual belief.  (I will, however, concede that I would probably feel differently if I had more than half a dozen.)

Sometimes you just want to say someone, “Let they who are without imperfection be the first to cast the first birth control pill,” because we’re not talking Tay-Sachs or Huntington’s chorea here.  My daughter isn’t suffering–she is one of the happiest kids I know.  She’s never even thrown a tantrum.  She’s gotten upset and frustrated, but she’s never been one of those little horrors you see on that British nanny show.

*

My daughter has shown me that we are more than our genes, our chromosomes, our cells, for they only tell part of the story of who we are, and what amazing things we can become.

#Fiction Friday: #Micropoetry from the Book

Mormoni

My sadness begat anger,
& my anger begat a strength
& a different hope for the future,
ushering in a new era,
with no man I could see.

I was Eve,
except I was the fruit
that was the temptation.
I was Ruth,
who followed another man’s God.
I was an unnamed daughter of Lot.

The love Elder Roberts had for me
was the milk—
a diluter of strength,
whereas Brad’s love was the sugar,
which made so many other things
better.
But David’s,
David’s was the base—
the coffee—
for it was the strongest.

Unrequited love on my side
made me bitter;
unrequited love on his side
made me wistful.
When I found my love
& he found me,
I found contentment.

Even as Catholic priests took vows of poverty,
chastity,
& obedience,
the Mormon vows of marriage,
children,
& clean living applied to all members.

#Fiction Friday: #Novelines from the Book

Mormoni

Temples made of sugar cubes, rag rugs out of old BYU T-shirts, & skirts of out of careworn missionary ties—that was the crafty Mormon life.

Caitlin worked on a tote made of gum wrappers for a contest she’d seen in Tween magazine, enlisting all her friends as chewers.

According to Leann, women were the homemakers because her dad didn’t see the value in anything he couldn’t eat, drink, wear, or watch.

Leann had a different flavor of the month when it came to the elders, though Kath would joke that they were all just different kinds of vanilla.

Elder Roberts had had a promise in me, yet he had given me up, giving me away to another man to take to wife.

The Sweeneys were pizza & paper plates; we were haute cuisine on china. The more time I spent away from my family, the less like them I became.

The angel Moroni—a prophet who hadn’t made it to the highest level of heaven—stood with his bugle atop every temple, issuing a clarion call to the worthy masses.

Leann was like a grown-up version of Caitlin, even as I saw in my mother, what I feared I would become.

Thinking of Mom on Mother’s Day

1987

My mom with me (I was about six here) and my brother, Kelly “Kel” Morgan. I never lacked for books, as you can see from the stack of Little Golden Books on the nightstand (Rota, Spain, 1987).

What would’ve been my mother’s sixty-fifth birthday passed on the twenty-third of April–a day when we would’ve gone to all the different Firehouse Subs and gotten (or haggled) for her free sandwich (I still remember her precise order and how she would flip her you-know-what if there was cheese on it because “they slop cheese on everything now”), with me buying a brownie or two so we wouldn’t look like greedy a-holes trolling for handouts.

Since then, I’ve been to her marker, now headstone, twice, my grandmother relieved that Ann was included on the stone (all the other military headstones we saw only included the middle initial).  Bernadean (my grandmother) was the only person who ever called my mom by her first and middle name (which is customary in some parts of the South): Betty Ann (as she was named her paternal aunts, Betty Lee and Carmen Ann).

Mom was so sick for so long (her stomach and back always given her trouble), it never occurred to me that she was dying–that all it would take was a slight thing to trigger a chain reaction that her body was defenseless to stave off.

“It still doesn’t seem real,” my dad still says, echoing my thoughts, echoing his previous words.  Isn’t it strange (and perhaps it’s own kind of wonderful) that wonderful things seem more real than terrible ones?

For good things have happened since “Grandma went bye-bye to Heaven” (as my daughter says), never doubting that they were meant to happen.

I wish (two words I find myself thinking more often) that I had more pictures of my mom and me in our later years, but, like the Bible says about a man leaving his father and mother and cleaving unto his wife, well, I guess the same goes for wives.  I became the adult in the family portraits, and my favorite subject to photograph became my daughter (still is).  I became one of those annoying moms I loathed who think everything their kid does is cute. (Okay, maybe not everything, but I love to share what is.)  I will never be a “Caroline Appleby” (Lucy Ricardo’s frenemy from I Love Lucy) about how adorable her “Stevie” is.

My mom wasn’t the type to open up to other women (I am too much the other way), so even though she wasn’t a Caroline Appleby, I always knew how she felt.

I was hesitant about sharing this eulogy I wrote and read at her visitation, but then, what is a eulogy but a type of poem?  I wanted to make this available for the family members who didn’t get to be there due to distance and circumstance, or for those who came later.

The post I published before was about her death–this is about her life, who she was, and still is, in what I think of as a “galaxy far, far away.”

(as read March 12, 2018)

I’ve always said that no one loves you like your mom loves you. I never understood that till I had a child of my own.

I remember when I knew I was going to have a girl, I put Hannah’s ultrasound picture in a book as a surprise. I remember Mom was as excited as if she was going to have the baby herself, and doubly excited that I was going to name her Hannah, for she’d always loved that name.

From that moment on, she started calling her Hannah Banana. Hannah eventually became Hannah B (for Hannah Beth). Mom was always so excited to see her. When Hannah got old enough to understand the concept of Grandma, the feeling was mutual.

But I know my mom loved me, too.

*

It was Mom who made my dad go into the room with me when I had to get a spinal tap for spinal meningitis because she couldn’t bear to see her child in pain.

It was Mom who showed me that a woman could have a career and a family, and still be a good mom. (Cooking skills not required.)

When I lived at home and didn’t come back when expected, it was Mom who would worry and drive around looking for me.

It was Mom who taught me to be observant, so she may have helped me save my own life and I never even knew it.

It was Mom who made my husband promise to take care of me.

It was Mom to whom I always first brought my stories—before they had the credence of publication or awards.

It was Mom who would give me rides every morning to work and pick me up when I didn’t have a car—sometimes when she was sick—because she had faith that I would be successful someday.

It was Mom who taught me how to have a sense of humor, and I understand, in times like these, how important it is to have one. I still laugh when I think of one of her “mom jokes”—funny only because they came from her.

It was Mom who told me that I could always come home, if needed—that there would always be a place for her children.

Mom always made sure her mom was taken care of, and I always figured the day would come when I would have to help take care of her.

I just wish I’d gotten that chance.

*

Just as Mom didn’t know how much I appreciated her—something we so often forget to tell people—I didn’t always know how proud she was of me, but a teacher of mine told me at an event I read at, that she could see how proud she was.

I just hope that Mom knows I’m proud of her, too.

*

Throughout her life, Mom did what the writing experts tell all storytellers to do—to show, and not tell. She did even better than that; she backed up everything she said.

She will be terribly missed, but that only proves how much she meant to all of us. She’s gone, but not lost to us forever.

Almost everything Mom taught me, I would never learn in a classroom, but isn’t that what moms are for? To give you the tools you’ll need for when they are gone?

So, thank you, Mom, for all of that, and everything else.