September 1, 2016

Snapshots of My Mother. {Poem}


She was
Kind of pretty
Pretty curious
Often serious
In silent suffering
Always cleaning  

Bainbridge Island, Washington, 1972
A rainy winter, a divorce, a commune
Mom, newly single, 32 and cute
Cruising in her used turquoise Thunderbird
Freedom from my father feels eerily fine
Eight-track tapes belt the Bee Gees, Bob Seeger,
the Beatles and Bette Midler.
Do you want to dance, under the moonlight?
The Mamas and Papas dancin’ in the streets
We kids loudly, joyfully sing along,
during mom’s meandering Sunday drives
There’s a small town Grand Old Fourth
And Transcendental Meditation
(I’m initiated at age 11.)
Gardening, friends, and parties
Patchouli, pot and hippies

Summers spent in Memphis.
Mom giggling with aunts Judie and Lou
Happily applying their make-up, like girls do
In the blue bathroom of the southern mansion
Nightly cocktail hour on the screened back porch
Gramma’s black eyed peas and pan friend pork chops
Grandad’s freshly picked peaches, mixed
Into churning, homemade ice-cream
Sweet ice coffee, magnolia trees and storms
Flying leaves, catching fire-flies in canning jars

Myrtle Beach, North Carolina,1982.
Swimming with mom’s new German husband
Watching her lounge on the pristine white beach
The warm Atlantic wind blowing her long neckerchief
Waving her pale arm at us from a distance
The new husband, Klaus, sweet and doting,
lucky mom, I think.

San Francisco, 1991.
My remote mom finally arrives this time
Instead of cancelling, as she always does
I’m angry, wrongly abandoned
Rarely seeing her in so many years
The Oakland hills burn up in flames
I can’t breathe, it’s too much smoke. I choke
And pour out years of weeping, grief and sorrow
So long I’ve longed for, and missed, my mother.
I cry and yell and blame and shake
She seems helpless, frightened. She warily asks,
“What do you want from me?”
I say, “Just hold me”, and she does.

Years pass.

And an assortment of ailments
Rigorous house cleaning
Endless honey-do lists
Busy, so busy, too busy to see me
They move to the Manitoba tundra.

Carefully packaged packages arrive
Each year in time for Christmas
Colorful down-filled vests, soft used towels
Unused cosmetics and photographs
Second-hand turtle necks and new tampons
The odd offerings make us laugh

Hour-long monthly calls
Our only point of contact
Consumed with astrology, numerology, Bush
And The New World Order
Mom checks off a detailed scribbled list
And describes the impact of the current eclipse
I listen half-heartedly but patiently and interject
an occasional mm, hmm, between sips

Bainbridge Island, again, 2009
It’s another Grand Old Forth
I’ve moved from California,
to the island of my youth
I eat tasty Pad Thai off a flimsy paper plate
Amid crowds of patriots wearing stars and stripes
Mom’s name flashes on my cell phone. She says,
“Doctor said I have two months to live.”
She is gracefully accepting and grateful for her good life
I hang up, disbelieving. In shock, writhing
Mom’s always got something,
But she never dies

Vancouver, Canada 2009
A quick visit with now-frail mom,
She’s bequeathing me her beloved Schnauzer, Lily.
My teenage son plays guitar and sings her lullabies
Sitting on a double bed in our tiny, brown motel room
She takes pure delight in him, and I, in them
She can no longer swallow and is wasting away
But she’s still put-together, pensive, and pretty
And penning her lengthy lists

Brandon, Manitoba, 2009
Mom’s settled in hospice, and skinny,
with still-perfect, porcelain skin
She doesn’t believe she’s really dying
And I nearly, really believe her
Until my last day there
When she can no longer rally
Nightly, after long mother-daughter talks,
I tuck her snugly in her last bed
“Goodnight, Mommy,” I say,
in my sweetest mother’s voice.
“Goodnight, baby”, she responds,
with a little girl voice
I kiss her tenderly on the cheek.
We giggle and fall soundly asleep,
Relishing these last sweet hours together
Unconditional love and acceptance,
of what is, and what was.

The Silverdale mall, September 2009
Klaus’ name flashes on my cell phone
She’s gone. My worried son
Drapes his arm around my shoulder
“Are you okay, ma? I’m so, so sorry.”
We sit together in stunned silence,
on the curb of the Halloween Super Store
Where life simply goes on

No more cleaning and headaches
No more packages or calls
Only painless sleep, sweet relief

The lists will have to keep.




Author: Alisa Moore

Image: Author’s Own painting

Editor: Travis May

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