Recently I participated in a six week writing session with North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Greene. From the beginning session she told us it was not a "how-to-write" class. Neither was it a class about her poetry, although we were fortunate that she did share with us.
Instead this was what she called a "creativity salon," and wow did she pull out the creativity from us. I was fortunate to be among the most talented siSTARs a zoom class could dare to hold. We shared class writing assignments with one another. We had homework and again shared our inmost thoughts after a week of digging deep into our pasts. After all, this was a class based on memoir writing, actually more pulling those memories from the deepest compartments of our brains. We wrote of personal stories we had never revisited. Private thoughts. We became instant kindred souls.
One week's assignment was to write about our mothers. On this Mother's Day of 2021 I want to share a bit of my mother with you through part of what I wrote. She would be one hundred ten years old this year had she lived past 2003.
She was here for September 11, 2001 and watched the ensuing tragedy. She was also here for the flu epidemic of 1918, so she would have experience to share through the recent Covid pandemic. She was a teen of the Great Depression and an adult of the Greatest Generation. She outlived her husband and her son. She had a wisdom I didn't fully appreciate. Until now, if even.
My mother passed from this earth at the age of ninety-two in the way she wanted to go. In her own bed. On her own terms with her mind fully aware. When the couple that bought her house asked about her dying there and seemed hesitant to purchase because of that, I assured them that whatever aura she might have left behind was pure satisfaction, for she had a happy life despite the struggles.
I would love to have her back again to answer questions that I'm sure she answered time after time, but I wasn't listening.
I apologize, Mother. I should have listened.
That's the key to my disappointment now. I wasn't listening. Tell me again, Mother, about my grandparents. I never met any of them, so you were the lifeline from them to me. What about your childhood and college. I want so much to imagine you and Daddy as a young married couple during World War II. What about the years raising my brother and me?
I doubt you ever told me, but I want to know if the dreams you had once upon a time ever came to fruition. Did you forfeit any dreams? Were they replaced with a life far better than you dreamed?
Another activity in our Creativity Salon was to write an "I am from..." poem. What I wrote was partially about my mother, or somehow influenced by her:
I am from coal fields and steel mills and smut clinging to the front room curtains.
I am from empty coal mines drained of their worth, silent steel mills and boarded storefronts.
I am from parents moving south, seeking a life beyond unemployment lines.
I am from a mother snatched from her comfort zone and placed in an alien culture.
I am from a family learning new rules of conduct that were on the brink of cracking as the fifties melted into the sixties.
I am from learning to use the appropriate water fountains, swimming pools, theatre seats.
I am from a strictly defined society kept apart from any hope of interactions.
I am from a mother who clicked off the television set when images of fire hoses spraying demonstrators bothered her too much to watch.
I am from parents who fretted daily, every moment, I'm sure, while my brother served his country in Viet Nam.
There was more in my I am from... poem, but here I want to keep the spotlight on my mother, because on this Mother's Day, I want to make sure the world meets her and doesn't forget her. This creativity salon allowed me to see the world from her point of view, and today I'm sharing that.
I'm proud to be from her!
Catch of the day,