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.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #423: Little (Blank)

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Heard of chocolate milk moustaches? Well, this is a goatee.

Little Things (That Make Life Good)

Chocolate milk moustaches & the sound a straw makes when you’ve sucked it good to the last drop

The chocolate nugget at the bottom of a Drumstick sundae cone

Waking up to the aromas of bacon & coffee

Paper newspapers & excursions to the bookstore

The smell of matches after they’ve been struck, birthday candles after they’ve been blown out

The experience of ripping paper off a present rather than pulling it out of a bag

Front doors with glass that let the light in, open windows on a nice day

Non-committal sweaters (i.e. not pullovers) & clothes without zippers

The non-committal semicolon, the amazing em-dash, & the cute little ampersand

Clever epitaphs & witty puns

2 spaces after a period

Cursive writing & typewriter font

Whiteboards for practical use, chalkboards for decorative

Long, luxurious lavender bubble baths

Lady Stetson & Prell

Non-sitting cardio machines

Roller skates you can strap to your existing shoe

Real bicycles that take you places

Mint-green Mini Coopers

TV shows that aren’t set in Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles

Bright lipstick with shiny lip gloss

Clothes that don’t have to be dry-cleaned

No-sew sewing projects

Truffle making

Retro kitchens with modern appliances

Willow Tree nativity scenes & Precious Moments snow globes

The Hallmark Yule log with the dog & cat in front of the fireplace, classic Christmas music playing in the background

I Love Lucy–an allegory of the American Dream

Humor, because life is serious

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 423

Writer’s Digest November Poem-a-Day 2017 Challenge #29. Theme: Response

In response to my previous poem:  https://sarahleastories.com/2017/11/24/writers-digest-november-poem-a-day-2017-challenge-24-theme-how-ill-be-remembered/

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How I Will Remember Them

I will always remember my paternal grandmother as a woman who epitomized grit and femininity–all while being a stay-at-home mom. I will remember her for saying (about her son, my uncle Bill), “If you’re not grinning like a jackass, he thinks you’re mad.” I will remember her for the way she’d say, “Now Cher—Bran—Sarah,” finally getting to my name (Cher and Bran being my aunt Cheryll and Cousin Brandi).

I will always remember my parents as always being proud of me. To me, a parent’s pride is different than a husband’s—it’s personal, for you are a part of them. We worry away our childhoods trying to make our parents proud (even though they, in turn, often embarrass us). I will always remember how my mom worried, which made me feel smothered. Now, with a daughter of my own, I understand.

I will remember my brother as a gifted musician who should never have hid his talent under a bushel.

I will always remember my peers in high school as smaller than they seemed all those years ago. High school isn’t the real world, though we never figure that out until it’s a long ago memory.

I will remember my Mormon acquaintances as changeless—kind of Godlike. My life, in contrast, has looked like an erratic heartbeat, theirs, a flat line, marked only by their first (and only marriages) and the births of their children. I don’t think I’ll ever know a life like theirs, so structured in religion, so unstructured with so many children.

My first real boyfriend: You were proof that chemistry could thrive without love or friendship. You showed me that the right person isn’t just about how you feel about them, but how they make you feel about yourself.

My second boyfriend: You were a rebound romance, doomed to fail because you weren’t what I thought I wanted. Now I know you were so much more than I could have ever dreamed.

My third boyfriend: You showed me how passion that’s all-consuming can almost destroy a person.

My husband, you have been as patient with me as I have been with you. For better or worse, our marriage is what it is. Like God, you have been right there with me through the best and the worst; I am patiently waiting for the better. You haven’t given me the best, but you’ve helped me become my best.

Hannah, my only begotten thus far, you have been the sun, the moon, and the stars—every kind of Mormon Heaven, every degree of glory. But I realized not long after you were born that “I Love Lucy” did not prepare me for parenthood. There was no Mrs. Trumble at the ready and in this world, I could never turn you loose to play elsewhere. But I am better than what I was because of your very existence. I say, I love my family as I love myself, but you are the only one I love even more than that.

My husband’s family, I was such an idealistic bride, hoping we could be friends like my mom and dad and aunt and uncle were when I was a little girl, but I know now that will never happen. The only connection we have is that you happen to be related to my husband. That alone doesn’t make you related to me.

And my friends, well, you know who you are, even as I am still getting to know who I am.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2017-november-pad-chapbook-challenge-day-29

#Micropoetry Monday: Realms of Motherhood

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The extra time she used to spend reading mystery novels,
she spent reading Mickey Mouse’s adventures.
The extra time used to spend watching “I Love Lucy,”
she spent making someone else laugh.
The extra time she used to spend working on her own story,
she recorded their story,
so that her child would never forget
that he’d been loved
before her time ran out.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #409: I Am A (Blank)

Reflections, Saint Patrick's Day

I Am a Slow-Speaking Lady

I am a slow-speaking lady,
a cracked Southern belle.
I am a Pollyanna at times,
an H.L. Mencken at others.
I am a Christian outside church,
a skeptic, a questioner, inside.
I am a lover of old things,
a user of new things.
I am okay and not okay.
I go by no other name—
no Mrs., no Dr.,
and never Sally.
I am someone’s brown-haired,
less intellectual
Diane Chambers.
I am a Lucy,
looking for her Ethel.
I am a bra-hating
non-feminist,
stuck in a society
stuck on teats.
I am a 35-year-old mama
playing her gender role
to the cross.
I am a black Irish,
white-collar,
working-class gal,
whose freckles
number the stars.
I am an open book,
a woman of mystery—
right down to the
witty gritty.
I am unilaterally deaf,
bilaterally blinded by
what is going on in the world,
for mine is a series of
unnatural disasters.
I am strong as spider’s silk,
as vulnerable as Hitch’s
leading ladies.
I am all these things;
I am more than these things,
for there is no end
to that which makes me,
me.

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 409

#Micropoetry Monday: Ekphrastic Poetry

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She’d learned it all from Lucy–
how a life of grand schemes
& wars of the sexes made it worth living,
how one could come to America an immigrant & not make do but do well,
how a small apartment in the city could become a spacious house in the country,
how lifelong best friends & a long-awaited child
could be part of anyone’s American Dream.

Scarlett
Tomorrow was always another day—
that mythical time when all would be well.
Yet she pined for the one man
who represented that lost cause
in which she’d found happiness.

Caroline Carmichael had found purpose in a stolen life,
rather than the life she had chosen as Martha Sedgwick.
She was the water,
Hillary & Winston the powdered mix,
& blended, they made up the Instant Family.

Little Women
Beth was but a faint percussion,
Amy, a bold stroke of fresh color,
while Jo captured & condensed life as she knew it,
& Meg mothered the future.

She was one in a dozen,
a ginger with a snap,
the heart of a lion,
the breadth of a lamb.