Mother’s Day is difficult for many. For mothers who wish they had been better at mothering, for mothers who have suffered the loss of a child. And yes, for those who spend hours finding a mother’s day card that is not too sappy, too loving. For those whose wounds of childhood haven’t healed. This poem is for all those who have trouble with mother’s day.
Here’s my hope for you: you may have had a terrible childhood, but those struggles, those losses, those nights you cried yourself to sleep? They made you who you are today. Strong, a survivor. To you, you who survived, here’s your poem:
No one dared cross my mother
Not with opinion (“Did I tell you to talk?”)
Not with fact (“When you grow up, then you do what you want.”)
Not even with a private thought (“I know what you are thinking. Stop it!”)
She was a tiny power engine of control
Fueling her machine with guilt, manipulation.
Driving it forward on the track of pain that burned within her.
Those tracks began: the only woman in her med-school class
Got her professor to ditch that cutie he was wooing
Take up with her instead; kept that focus steady till the day he died.
Gave him two sons to carry on his name
Did not die during the war: crawled out of wreckage, starved and broken
Did not die.
Too mean. Too tough. That fragile aura?
Don’t believe it for a second.
That woman would strip your bones for soup
while you were running from her.
Years later, fearful sons half grown, she birthed that mistake
(The lazy daughter with the big, bold dreams).
The one that needed to be cut down to size: often, often, down.
Honed her disappointment of her own lost glory against her daughter’s heart.
I spent years putting that puzzle together, taking it apart.
Couldn’t understand the pieces or the completed shape.
When I was 30, in one swift week,
I lost my father, job, and marriage.
Sitting shiva for my life, or what was left of it,
I sifted the wreckage, feeling for her guts, her spine, her nerve
To feed, protect and clothe my nine-year old: all I had left.
No, I did not give my son what he needed.
I didn’t have, so could not give.
But these three generations floating in my gene pool
Can kick some righteous ass, and tell some stories.
–Quinn McDonald is also a mother. © 2016. All rights reserved.