“It Always Hurt Me To See My Mother Cry”
It always hurt me to see my mother cry.
I remember in early childhood, there being instances.
Like that time when I was in the third grade,
and she was lunch mother at school.
Somehow the hospital was able to notify her that my grandmother had died after a prolonged struggle with breast cancer.
She must have been brought to the office on the second floor to receive the news.
I remember her coming down the maroon staircase,
floating on grief, red and runny from the emotions.
My stomach sank.
I remember in later childhood, there being instances.
Like that time in the seventh grade, when we moved from my second floor childhood apartment.
My parents were packing like gangbusters, and my father was in the basement.
My mother leaned over the back stairs and shouted down into the abyss to get my father’s attention.
Forgetting her surroundings, she sprang back up, but not without smashing her skull on the decorative wooden stairwell stalactite.
I heard the bang from three rooms and a long hallway away.
It least is seemed a long hallway away, to an adolescent boy.
Cringing in the darkness, aware of the flash of pain she suffered and the anxiety surrounding the impending move, amidst a sea of trailing sobs.
I remember as a young college-aged adult, there being instances.
Like that time as a freshman in college, when my grandfather died.
Watching her at the funeral, linked arm and arm with her older brother,
as they walked behind a flag draped coffin, and the music medley of “Eagle’s Wings”, the “Marine Corp Hymn”, and “Danny Boy” played.
The tears rolled violently and syncopated sobs echoed up into the abandoned balcony, hanging in a hushed choir of hyperventilating breaths.
I remained stoic outwardly, but disarmed inwardly by her display.
It is odd for me now, so many years later, to reflect on the trail of tears that defined my mother’s pain, but also allowed for me to see a more human side of her personality.
There was certainly a cleansing quality to those instances all the way up and down my early life.
There were times when I wished that I could have spared her that pain.
But, having experienced what I’ve experienced in my life, I recognize the magnificent importance of sorrow, and its presence in our lives.
And, upon further reflection, I truly appreciate the balance and value it provides to our souls.
With all due respect to others that won’t admit so,
Parenting really crushes a soul.
Try as one might,
The only antidote is to temper your own expectations,
So that disbelief at the ordinary can become as sublimated as one’s ego needs to be in order to raise little versions of yourself.
Ego, must go, be gone,
Ergo: let go.
Somewhere along the line,
You realize how impossibly frustrating it must be for your partner to deal with you,
As it becomes evident that three foot versions of yourselves that share genetic material, are enough to send one to the cold slumped embrace of a worn body pillow.
Tears are friends,
Screaming into a howling wind is your best friend.
The best time is when everyone is asleep,
Unless of course, you awake to disembodied eyes an inch from your face saying in a stealthy whisper, “Daddy…Daddy…Daddy”.
Give away all your “good” furniture, and don’t warm to the idea of any type of boundary.
They find you when you poop.
They find you…when you poop!
The first few years are dedicated to just keeping em alive.
The next few are populated with a litany of negotiations, and then someday, you have strangers that look like you, hating you because you became your parents and asked them to be accountable for their behavior.
There is no experience quite like the raising of children.
Nothing so hard and fraught with uncertainty, but also nothing so deeply imbued with a sense of the possibility of imminent loss just when you hold onto it the hardest.
So much to lose, so much to do, so much to prove.
We’re all screwed.
Play date! Play date!
A parenting S.O.S, from one in distress.
I’m doing my best.
I’m doing my best.
One time when I was a kid,
I woke up with enthusiastic hiccups.
I woke my Father, he was nearest the bedroom door.
He walked me down the hallway,
To the kitchen.
Turned on the light,
And grabbed a cup from the cupboard.
Then, he grabbed the sugar jar,
Spooning out three teaspoons of granulated elixir.
He ran the kitchen faucet,
Then filled the sugared glass three quarters of the way up.
I kept hiccuping enthusiastically throughout.
He encouraged me to drink the filled cup.
And then walked me back down the hallway,
Stopping at my room to tuck me into my bed.
Somehow, the hiccups lost their enthusiasm,
And I was able to go back to sleep.
If there were such a thing as a time machine,
I think, I’d like to go back to that particular moment, and thank my Father for his magic.
Once Upon A Time
An early arrival at 288 Bunker Hill Street for a Fourth of July Cookout.
Bubba, our maternal Grandfather, cleans the round grill top.
June rusted remainders of crusted Kraft Barbecue Sauced chicken.
A damp dish towel and an alien tool make busy until it is Marine Corp clean.
On the kitchen table sits a large brown Tupperware jug.
This jug will hold the Lipton Iced Tea, once water is added to the powder.
The scoop to get the powder makes a scratchy sound.
Eight scoops? Nine scoops?
Our Father preps the grill for cooking once all the components are inspected by our Grandfather.
He seems like Hercules grabbing the grill by the tripod base, and twirling it in measured flourishes, carefully wrapping the grill reservoir with aluminum foil to contain the Kingsford Charcoal Briquettes
Once all the preparations are made, the coal can be loudly nuggeted into the bowl and charcoal lighter fluid added.
Large wooden matches are like wizard wands striking explosions and teasing dancy, before the flame appears over the charcoals, as if Prometheus himself touched them.
Couldn’t eat until the goodies were cooked, and couldn’t cook until the charcoals burned white.
Hours later, with bellies full, we’d walk up the Hill to Sawyer’s Lot.
The fireworks would happen around 10ish.
Lawn chairs, portable transistor radios, kids on Daddy’s shoulders, vendors selling glow sticks; all made it a scene.
Arthur Fiedler and John Williams did their best to add sonic emotions.
Then we’d go home and dream of glowing coals and exploding shells on the Boston horizon.
We wake up early for a Fourth of July Cookout.
Travel to a friend’s house, with promises of pools and inflatable water bouncy houses.
The traffic draws us out of our merriment.
We just can’t seem to get there.
The kids take turns trying on bad moods, and insisting upon being heard.
The baby is/was sleeping.
We missed the exit.
Everyone has to pee now.
Finally, we get there.
Bathroom is full.
“No, you can’t go swimming until I put sunscreen on you.”
“But, Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaddy!!! We never get to do anything!”
Eat as fast as we can, so we can chase the kids.
It’s time to go.
“No, Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaady!!! We never get to do anything!”
One, maybe two fall asleep, but not all three.
Oh, wait, just as we pull into the driveway, the third is out cold.
“Wake up! We need to get ready for night-night.”
With full bellies, we walk up the stairs to put the kids to bed.
Clothes strewn across the floor, toothpaste squeezed across the sink for no apparent reason, eight books selected for night-night.
Over on the Esplanade, Keith Lockhart conducts the 1812 Overture, just as we begin our war to finally get them all into bed.
For the first of many failed attempts.
Then we come downstairs and dream of glowing coals and exploding shells on the Boston horizon, and fall asleep on the couch.
A very special thanks to Michelle A, perspective is important. Perspective of time helps us to value what we have and also what we once had. As much as we enjoy in our youth, someone else is ultimately responsible for cultivating and guiding those experiences, if we are lucky.
40/40: Summer Poem Slam-a-bam is a project in which people have joined me for 40 days and 40 nights of on-demand poetry. They have submitted the concepts, ideas, and subjects; I’ve done the work.