Sometimes, my mom would to sit me down
Next to a stack of ironing
She would go over language lessons while
Pressing out imperfections and wrinkles
This was my pre-school education
Her gift of time
A luxury she never had as a child
She was the eldest of many
So bright – so young – so trapped
With chores to do and piles and piles of ironing

Where did her time go?
Now, her hair is so thin and white
Brittle from gallons of hair spray
Applied every Sunday morning
Before my father would drop her off early
At the back door of the church
Her dress always pressed just right
Only to be covered by her choir robe
But every hair stayed quiet and perfectly in place
Evidence of her propriety and Godly living
While her children would squirm restlessly in a pew
Waiting for their father to shut his eyes during the sermon
So they could play tic tac toe
While praying for the benediction to come mercifully and quick

Last month, she called me asking if I was coming home for Easter
Reminding me I had not driven the 700 miles since Christmas
And telling me three times in three different ways
How it hurts to get on her knees and plant spring flowers
And that my father forgets what he has done and overwatered the daffodils again
Sometimes, she makes me feel like it is my fault he is getting old

I wonder when will be my last time
To sit at their table so she can feed me breakfast
Food that she remembers as my favorite
Food that I now only eat at their table
Where I listen to her tell stories
About her parents and grandparents
Stories of not having much
Stories of losing the farm in the Great Depression
Stories of her father going blind with a large family to feed
Stories of giving hobos a cup of water from the well
In the yard of their little cinder block house on the edge of town near the railroad
Stories of how she met my father during the war
She was only 18 and a bookkeeper at the mill
Stories of how she prayed everyday for him to return whole and alive
To take her away to live happily ever after in Indiana

We drove home this Easter
I ate breakfast at their table, heard the same stories, picked up sticks in the yard
Pulled weeds from her flowers, watched her sing in the church choir
…..and sometimes, I would sit on their couch
Searching for words to describe
My feelings about the time she gifted me
My mind would spin in circles
Like a dog chasing its tail
Trying to find words to sink my teeth into
But a dog never seems to catch its tail
And I never seem to find the words

(A.E.Black, 05/05/11)


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