What It Is To Be A Mother

On becoming a mother
I contract to:

Exchange my nerves for your peace;
Give my body to yours;
Lay down my time to decorate yours;
Day-labor for your future so it’s ready when you get there;
Feed your heart with Truth, and your mind with Good,
And your body with health;
Stay awake when you are sick in body, or soul;
Wait restlessly for your whispered ‘Hey, I’m home’;
Sleep lightly when you sleep;
Feel every one of your slings and arrows first, for you,
Dream for you when you don’t know how to,
Understand you always,
Learn to listen to you,
Cheer for the smallest big accomplishments,
Toddle beside you and laugh and cry,

And to feel like all of this
Is the best present I’ve ever received,
Better than a day spa,
A lottery win,
A title,
An honors stole around my neck.

Thank you. For being born.

   

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Prayers On The Eve Of Hard Things

 

Lord, I call out to your steadfast love,
To the honor of your name,
To the might of your arm,
To the rebuke of your enemies,
To your love that leads through deserts,
Foes, floods.
I look to your face as you see my distress,
To your ear as you hear my cry,
To your heart as you remember your covenant,
To your arms as you enfold me in steadfast love,
To your skin, very skin, of compassion, of pity.
You, O Lord, are the Amen and the Holy, the
Holder of Tomorrow. In those same hands,
Cup my thankful praise of
Your goodness.
~

‘I Could Never Do Airbnb’

The reservation said six gentlemen from
Hong Kong. Quiet, we expected,
Deferential, polite.
So many hahahahahas on us!

Two cars disgorged five smoking,
Frolicking, selfie-snapping,
Columbian college students ‘touring.’
Except that they never left our house,
But for the need for smokes and the occasional
Bag of chips.
They sang – off key, with abandon and
Feeling.
The boys were edgy and quiet.
The spokeswoman – the only one with any English –
Spanned the culture and language
Gap with thank yous and
‘I’m sorry for the cigarette butts in the fern garden,’
And ‘do you have a screwdriver, a tiny one, to take
Apart a phone for an electronics project?’
If we had a ticker on the front door to tally
How often it opened and closed,
Into the wee hours,
It would
Malfunction from
Overuse.

Columbians live in the front yard.
Unlike Americans.
City action is on the street.
They stand out by the cars and laugh and take
Cell-phone videos while
Climbing the Dogwood and
Share the images to their RapidoGram Stories.
They sing and talk and laugh, and we’re not sure
Why they chose to come here. Little here, our house,
In a quiet neighborhood not used to
Bogota, Columbia, South America
In the front yard and the comings and goings
Of their second car backed in and parked
Nose-out behind the first car.
Snatches of telenovelas colombianas,
Soaps in Spanish melodrama,
Ached through the cigarette smoke,
Outside the bathroom window as I
Showered for church.
It was a regular
Freakshow.

Until the spokeswoman hugged me,
Got her flowery perfume all over me,
And thanked me.  Said she
Felt so welcome here, slept so
Soundly here. And
I am
Dust-humbled and
Glad, so glad.

Kate From Sheboygan

 

I love throwing around the word ‘Sheboygan’ as if I am intimately familiar with the Wisconsin city. I’m not; Sheboygan brings no connotations to my mind whatsoever.

Until a few months ago.

I did not go to Sheboygan. Sheboygan came south in the form of a delightful 25 year old millennial named Kate, who came with her boyfriend Kyle to stay in our Airbnb room on the southern lap of their hit-all-50 bucket list.

Kate and her boyfriend are scientists. Odds were that, as an English teacher who has lived south of the Mason-Dixon her whole life, I would have few connecting points with two scientists from Sheboygan. Wrong!

Let me describe Kate: engaged! She was a reminder of how rich this life is and to hang on to that. Her bucket list includes skydiving and Nashville. She kayaks and hikes and Cricuts and loves children and is the perfect balance to her quiet companion who is more what I had envisioned a Sheboyganite to be like. And yes, their accents were hard core. Mwahkee; Grammuh (your mother’s mother).

She was not afraid to invite us to our own back porch to talk. Most Airbnbers are properly reserved and that’s as it should be. But, oh, the refreshing one who breaks through and says, “Come visit!” That freedom doesn’t just come from youth. It comes from the heart of a person who doesn’t fear judgment because she herself is not judgmental. She takes in life with pleasure as it comes to her.

Thank you, Kate, for reminding me that God has no end of ideas when forming our personalities; that He had a great time making you; and that He blesses this big world with your warmth.

#iheartsheboygan

PS. Kyle, seriously about the wedding invitation. Kate’s one of a kind; don’t let her get away!

If I Understood You Correctly

Sister-girl, what will you find there,
In the church of you?
Our first dishwasher was army duffel
Green,
Gummed with years of generic
Tomato sauce,
And offered the panoply of options including
On and Off.
It sort of cleaned the dishes, but

You get what you pay for.

Fingers in the medium do not
Bleed a life price.
Ply though they will, fingers
Can only cry out in wordless,
Flexed
Extension for redemption.

Their cry is true as
The pink sky over the
Catholic church in
January,
That morning
It was seven degrees,
With birds.

I do not trust in my fingers;
They are dead.
But their offspring
Breathes
The promise of salvation.
~

(In response to an article by Rebecca Gayle Howell titled “The Lexington Cure” published in Oxford American magazine, Winter 2017)