It is Mother’s Day and I’ve been very blessed with a son who not only took me to lunch but to an art gallery then dinner! Can you imagine doing all that for your mom? I know. But it isn’t all bliss on the parenting front. In fact, being a mother means your worst self will be scrutinized and commented on for as long as you are alive. Your children, in all their innocent and not so innocent honesty, will bring you face to face with your shortcomings like no one else.
Recently my son said he felt like I didn’t teach him enough tasks and that I was annoyingly positive. Well, there you are. But as I ruminated on my failings at 3 am, I thought of my own mother and her imperfections and how they now endear me to her even more. Where once I was a critical 20 something I am not a not-so-smug 40 something who can, with empathy and love, look back on some of situations I was in with my mom and hold them close as cherished memories instead of damning her for being, well, human. To that end, I wrote a poem about a time when, in today’s politically correct world, my mom would have been seen as lax or worse, negligent. But I see it very differently. I my son will too some day.
It is the imperfections of my mother
I hold dearest—
The time for instance when turning off of
West 16th near UBC in her red Beetle the
door beside me swung open and since it was the seventies
I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt
and I went with the door, grasping the handle to
avoid the road rushing below me.
I looked back at my mother who
while still turning with her left hand lunged across to snatch my
flimsy t-shirt with her right and pulled me back into the car.
It was a one shot deal but she managed it. The door banged shut as
she completed the sharp turn and we kept on driving as though
I hadn’t just about fell out of the car and onto the road.
A block later a small eruption of laughter burst
From my mother. It made me clap my hands together
In gleeful loopy agreement of what I wasn’t sure but
The sun was streaming through oak leaves as we drove
Creating a beautiful pattern on my mother and I kicked my legs
Out from the edge of the sticky car seat to the radio played
Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn’t it a pity
Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city
I could say my mother was negligent
I could get maudlin, drink myself silly
Recount her imperfections that had caused
My life to zig zag like a silverfish on the run
But then I remember how she didn’t pull over
And fuss and fawn and make a big deal of
My near death fall and how years later this
Would give me courage when real death
And real heartbreak would pull me pull me down
And I would swim up to the surface, clapping my hands
Ecstatic for life’s small moments of survival.
*Song lyric from Summer in the City by Lovin Spoonful, 1966.