Now, to the Good Mother List
of things I’ve done for you, I’ll add
last night, when I wanted
tea and toast in my pajamas. Instead
I drove to the city in rain and dark
for dinner with an old friend in a crowded restaurant—-
Not because I was anxious to see my friend or eat a $15 salad,
but for you and that question in your eyes
that wonders if I’ll be okay when you leave home.
Truth is, some days I’ll be content
playing my own music,
not cooking or tripping over your shoes,
watching Downton Abbey instead of James Bond.
And some days I’ll be bereft
mourning the lost country of childhood
we can never return to
an ache I can’t describe
which is just as well since you suspect
but don’t want to know
Category Archives: Family
Now, to the Good Mother List
Along with your sleeping bag,
guitar, fishing pole, dirty laundry,
you bring me a souvenir from camping.
You like turtles, don’t you?
The question freezes me—
for one minute time shifts and you are
four, in love with everything in the world,
holding a toad bigger than your cupped hands
asking me to admire its gray-green self.
Turtles are nice, I say warily, remembering.
From your backpack you dig out a silver turtle charm,
enameled in bright turquoise. You shrug.
I bought you this because you like turtles,
you say, then hesitate, suddenly as uncertain
as when you’ve forgotten Mother’s Day again.
You do like turtles, don’t you?
I do now, is what I think.
What I say is Yes. Oh, yes, I love turtles.
Add this on the mountain of impossible tasks:
carry Confidence in your children.
Be clear and certain of its weight
like a rock in your knapsack, solidly itself.
Now, its time is here.
Bestow it, confidence given as a gift
when you send them out
into the world that they can handle
whatever stones trip them along the way.
Let go of hoping they need you.
Let go of fearing they need you.
Let go of all that wishing,
all your pebbled memories.
Open your tightly closed fingers.
Let that rock you love nestle
into the ground at their feet.
With your empty fingers
raise your hand and wave.
This too, is part of your job, harder than toilet training or teaching addition.
Don’t pound on the opaquing glass between you and them. Don’t
tap their shoulders like the nervous bird you are. They are
ready, eager to get into the world. Don’t do anything
to make them turn around. But in case they
glance back, you should be Waving.
And, of course, you should
be Smiling as you Wave.
This, too, is part
I’ll never know
why you believed
our rickety green table
that’s never been asked
to hold more than a lamp, a phone,
the occasional vase—
Why would you believe it could hold
But, you explain again,
baby birds need to eat
every ten minutes.
You learned this online.
You couldn’t find the step ladder
or we never had one to start with
and the mother was going nuts…
She’s not the only one.
Your expression is as stunned as a baby bird.
I didn’t think you’d care that much,
is what you say, bemused.
You explain to me again
how you saved the bird
certain this time
I will see things differently.
Later, calmer, phone and lamp
in their new home on the floor,
it’s a comfort
to remember your surprise.
These are rehearsals.
Before the curtain rises
on that show about empty nests,
Ten minutes, an hour, a day
with no one asking
for money, food, rides.
Test the quality
of the air at midday,
Soft as the leaves on maple trees
when the wind dies down,
quiet as nights without crickets.
For you, my happy son,
so bored with home, one more gift
after all the tassels, cakes and cash.
The best gift I ever gave
took decades to build—
Here it is—open it—
The life that led to graduation night
spent with superhero movies
playing on the barn’s back door
behind your best friend’s house
chairs and cushions spread on the lawn
huge starred sky above and a projector
flickering pictures against the barn door screen.
I’ve carried your gift carefully, adding to it day by day
over years and offer it to you, now—
This childhood I built with you, and everybody
who knows you in this little town.
Here, carry it with you, no burden
but a memory to hold in the dark.
I come from a long line of Alarmists.
In the 1300s, we were the town criers
who ran through city streets
yelling important announcements
of impending doom:
Pestilence! Plague! Invaders!
Here, the cure:
Announce something happy,
or at least not Alarming
every—well, let’s start with once a day
and work up from there
till whole days are full of chocolates and
hidden blossoms brought to light.
Look, the berries are ripe
and glisten, all the rain
has written Bright Green
across the orchard.
Searching for your one important face
in a crowd of caps and gowns
and beach balls—which are against
The Rules and…There— you turn,
see me and grin that always smile
which all these years of practice
taught me to translate with ease
into this jumble of:
I’m hot, this hat itches, isn’t this whole
thing ridiculous but funny?
And as always, the grin includes
Instructions for me–
Please Do Not:
Take any more pictures
Comment on my sneakers
Or the girl in the next aisle.
I smile right back, knowing you too
are a master translator:
I love you, we both say,
as I reach for the camera.
“Roofs are easier to fix than roads,”
says the historian in her dry, reedy voice
which explains covered bridges
and opens the possibility of
the perfect graduation gift.
Along with that Irish
about roads rising to meet you,
knowing they will roll their eyes
at your choice,
after much consideration
The Perfect Gift
for setting out into the wide world