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.

Micropoetry Monday: For Labor Day

Labor Days

She felt that waiting tables was beneath her,
that working behind a register did not
utilize her learned skills and innate talents,
never knowing that the smiley face she drew
in whipped cream on a child’s chocolate chip pancake
or the few extra cherries she put in their Shirley Temple Tantrum
made their day,
or that it was her cashiering job
that ultimately paid for those little extras
that made her day.

How Mothers Write

It came upon a midsummer clear day’s dream . . . 
the mother wrote.
“Bubbles,” her daughter said,
putting the magic-filled wand in her lap.
With one blow,
the mother filled the room
with little floating Cinderella coaches
that popped,
turning back into invisible pumpkins.

. . . that Gloria saw a princely frog,
resplendent in the golden pond . . .
she continued.
“Ring-a-rosie,” her daughter said,
and the mother took her in her arms,
spinning her round and round
in the desk chair—
a makeshift merry-go-round,
giggles of delight making a circle
around them,
like the rings of Saturn.

. . . and wondered if this was the one.
The mother pondered her next sentence.
“Rowrow song,” her daughter said,
and it was, “. . . If you bring the coffee,
don’t forget the cream . . . er.”
The daughter giggled,
for mommy’s penchant for lots of
whipped cream with a little coffee
was their little joke.

True love was like that . . .
She smiled, knowing what
her next sentence would be,
but the oven timer went off just then,
and the daughter clapped her hands,
knowing the blondies
had browned just enough
to be chewy—
her favorite texture for the week.

The mother went to the kitchen,
to assemble the Dagwoods for Daddy’s lunch,
showing her daughter how to become
a sandwich artiste,
and then went back to work,
letting animal crackers pacify for now,
singing about the zoo in soup.

There were jumping and swinging,
and games of Build-and-Bash;
of putting things together,
only to take them apart;
of singing about bridges falling,
and buses filled with all kinds of people,
doing silly things;
of going barefoot in the backyard,
turning on the spigot,
and kicking whatever ball had been left out.
For the mother,
there was the seeing of old things
in new ways,
and for the daughter,
of seeing things as if for the first time.

An hour went by,
the mother not realizing
how much she needed this—
as much as the child who delighted
in her attention.

When the daughter went down for her nap,
her little hands clutching her pink elephant
covered with tags and flower tattoos,
she wrote,
. . . One waited their whole life for it,
not knowing who,
but loving that someone before they knew.

Her husband came through the door,
but she continued.
. . . It tended to come from somewhere behind,
where princesses had already been.
Love was a different way of seeing.
Her husband kissed her on the cheek,
her eyes on the screen as her fingers
pounded on the keys,
creating a music one could only see.

Snapshots: A Life, One Line at a Time

Dad

Snapshots

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,
startling me.

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.

Mom