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Mother's Day Poem

[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]

This post is arriving a day late and a dollar short, which is both a common idiom and 2014 movie staring Whoopie Goldberg that I have barely heard of and never watched. I *technically* wrote this poem after Mother's Day but it was inspired by my childhood home and my mum, so here we are.

Mother's Day has origins all the way back to 1914, when it was made a national holiday. A lady named Anna Jarvis created Mother’s Day and then spent the later half of her life trying to revoke it due to it's unsavory commercialization. I'm not sure how many mother's desire half-dead roses and a kitschy card and cardboard chocolates, but like every other holiday, commercialized it has become.

Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honor of their mother goddesses. In modern times, we honor our mothers most commonly with the aforementioned items and phone calls. More calls are made on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year, causing phone traffic to spike by over 37%.

Before the Civil War, Jarvis helped start "Mother's Day Work Clubs" in West Virginia to teach women how to be mothers. After the war, Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” to unify northern mothers with southern mothers. In modern times, mothers are relieved of the burden of national unity and are instead saddled with trying to raise their children while working while remaining romantically sound while staying healthy while having hobbies while sleeping, etc, etc, etc. I'm not a mother, but it seems like a lot of work.

So, here's a poem I wrote a day after Mother's Day. Here's to all the women who are mothers, or who act like mothers, or who are on their way to being mothers.

Mother's Day

"an apple a day keeps the doctor away,"

my mother told me

pushing me high on the tree swing

so I could touch the oak leaves

so high I could taste the sunlight

and her laugh rang like a jingle bell

I didn't tell her then

but I loved her so much

later on we ate lunch on the front steps of the farmhouse

a cold cheese sandwich and green apple slices

"an apple a day," she promised

she promised

would keep the doctor away

an apple a day

and some string beans from the garden

sweet corn, carrots, peas, and zucchini

red peppers, tomatoes, and strawberries

in the evenings we walked along the fence line

cornfields folding in every direction

"walking is good for the heart," she would say

"good for the lungs"

when I grew tired I'd hold her thumb

and we'd turn towards home for lemonade

and an apple a day

keeps the doctor away

an apple a day

keeps the doctor away

"an apple a day," she promised

keeps the doctor from calling with a diagnoses

I didn't know darkness could eat up the woman

who walked through the forest calling to birds

the woman who sang me to sleep

the woman who gave me

lavender sprigs and told me to breathe

I didn't know cancer could stop her cold

so I told her I'd keep eating apples

if she'd stay a bit longer

an apple a day keeps the doctor away

keeps the cancer from spreading

keeps me sane in heartache

keeps the hole in my chest from spreading forever

keeps my mother here,

in the hospital bed

here, on the sagging brown couch in the big farmhouse

here, in the garden plucking ripe string beans

here, on the soft snow path in the dusky gray forest

where she told me her secrets

told me she'd love me forever

told me we'd run to the river one day

and the sun hit her face

and she laughed jingle bells

cast a spell on the trees

here, in the moment she promised

an apple a day keeps bad things away

here, a decade later on mother's day

when we ran to the river and laughed

until our voices wove together

in a tapestry the color of brilliant oak leaves

on a warm summer day

with the sun on our faces

and the worst of the darkness

far, far behind us

P.S. Read about how mothers carry a inordinate emotional load here, read or listen to Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown, or listen to The Best Day by Taylor Swift.


Sarah Rose

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