The cat's out of the bag now, party over, so I can say here that I spent a good amount of time the past couple of months getting ready for my mom's 75th surprise party. The biggest part of the surprise, surely, was that all six of her children, from the one across the street to the one across the state, to the four across each side of the country, were all present to welcome her third quarter century. Dressed in poodle skirts and hipsters, no less! The second biggest pleasure, a durable one, was a life retrospective photo album we all put together for her. It took some work.
Sorting through long-taped boxes of stuff a few weeks ago, I came across not only pictures I'd forgotten about, but old journals as well. I spent an embarrassing half hour reading my diary from age 13, and less pink-tinged time flipping through old journals. I also found my old poetry book, and was reminded that I became a paid author via poetry. Yup, in the early 90's I entered one of those poetry contests you see in magazines, and a few months later was notified I'd won first place (not the grand prize, though), and a check was in the envelope along with the invitation to buy the anthology. Yeah right. The five buck check would hardly cover the price of the tome, and I nearly threw it away. Then I looked again. Five hundred dollars. Seriously? Seriously. I wish I'd bought something lasting with the cash, but instead I got an exercise machine that sat unused for five years before my mom finally dumped it at a garage sale.
Thinking about the party, thinking about that winning poem, thinking about mothers and Thanksgiving and what tomorrow means, I decided I'd share the poem here with you. Between my mother, and Pamela's, and Joan's, mentioned in the past weeks here on the blog, it seemed fitting to remember mothers on this day that is not about turkey but is very much about gratitude and memory. Kim and Julie, too, have often talked about their mothers on the blog, and like me, are blessed with their proximity. As we head toward our retreat in a week and a day, we are wishful for comfort for all our mothers, we are grateful for the times we've had with them, and we are hopeful for the best.
Perhaps my first memory is of the carousel
The whirling joy in the jangle of bright song
Bringing me back around to wave with four year glee--
At the smiling mother who waved back--
Or maybe the train ride across Wyoming
Where I waved at every horse
In every field--"Hi, Hochie"--
I named my red wheeled horse after them
And my mother always waved back when I came around the block.
Is this what motherhood is?
A series of waves at children on toys, on bikes,
Leaving for camps, dates, colleges, weddings?
No, but how do you
So leave it to say
What I got from my mother
Was an aching drive to wave.
She waved to me as I was wheeled into surgery,
Nineteen, ovarian cysts.
"Can I still have children?" I asked.
"I don't know," he said, "let's wait and see."
And in those hours I felt my birthright
Slip away like a miscarriage.
When I awoke, I saw my mother
The doctor told us my life was intact
And I realized how closely knit
Our hands are to our hearts.