If you’re ever in the mountains of North Carolina and you spot a pretty woman wandering around in a hilly field with her eyes turned up to a sunrise or storm clouds or a flock of darting birds, there’s a good chance that it’s my mom. And you should certainly say hello, because she is absolutely one of the most amazing, kind, talented, and generally wonderful people on the face of the planet. And I’m honestly not biased.
Mommy, whether with pen or camera in hand, strives to bring beauty to the people around her and a world that is so often closed to that beauty. Even when we were very young, she taught us that there was a time to be goofy and loud, and a time to be very quiet, sensitive, and receptive. She taught us that listening and thinking are often much more worthy than talking, because if you listen closely and think carefully, the words you do say will be worth more than a thousand empty, careless words. Some of the most sacred times I’ve spent with Mommy and with my family are the ones that involved very little talk, the times when we’ve watched meteor showers together, or hiked together, or simply sat and read together inside on a rain-laden day.
Even now, as a college student, Mommy is often my first critic. I send her my stories, poems, and art and ask her opinion. And even though my professors are professional writers, poets, and artists, I value her opinions and suggestions dearly. If I’m stuck on a particular passage in a short story, she’s the first person I turn to for help. I can’t tell you how many times her ideas have sparked writing that saved a floundering story. She is an incredible writer, perceptive to the nuances and minutiae of everyday life and everyday struggles. We share a love of details, irony, and wit. And fortunately or unfortunately, whichever way you see it, we share a ridiculous love of wordplay and puns.
We also share very, very similar senses of humor. If you don’t know her well, you would never know what a hilarious nut she is. She is one of the funniest people I know. Don’t be fooled by her initially dignified appearance. She’s a total goofball, and she’ll do about anything to make us laugh. We’ve always found something to get tickled about, even when we were struggling, and I believe that humor is one of the most important character traits a person can have.
Mommy has always anchored me mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. She is a endless source of patience, guidance, and love. She is a constant when so many things are fleeting. She loves me unconditionally, and I can’t tell her how much I appreciate that. Mommy, I admire you, treasure you, and love you more deeply than you can ever imagine.
I wrote this poem in honor of you and motherhood in general. No matter what I’m doing or where I am, our minds, spirits, and hearts will always be intertwined.
Dar a la luz
When my mother was pregnant,
she sang songs to me
even before I had ears.
She would cup both hands around
the growing mound of her stomach,
filling me with the muted vibrations of her voice
and the beating of her heart,
my heart. I was asleep but waking,
curled in the soft, dark sea of her womb.
Both times she gave birth,
she did so naturally. Each contraction
was a fiery push and pull, the urge
to keep us close and the need
to grant us to the world in an excruciating exit.
In Spanish, to give birth is
“dar a la luz,” to give to the light.
When I learned the phrase, I said it over
and over in my head. Voy a dar mi niña a la luz:
I am going to give my child to the light.
I imagined both a sacrifice and offering,
the greatest favor and the greatest risk.
My mother knew this even as her body
was shaped around mine. The moment I left her,
I was still connected to her, but howling and
overwhelmed, infuriated with the gifts of vision,
of light and air, of my own heartbeat.
I flailed the air until the doctor tucked me
back into the warm cocoon of my mother’s arms.
My mother taught me gardening
even when I was little. I would help lay the beds,
casting moist handfuls of dark topsoil over
the brittle red clay. She taught me names of plants,
verbena, beebalm, salvia, wood phlox.
I stood in the glittering spray as she watered them
and walked around the garden with her
when she finished. She pointed out perennials
and seedlings, showed me how to gently pry apart
pods and how to cover the seeds
just enough to bury them, so that water and light
could reach them.
I loved the impatiens. When I was young,
I thought the name meant that the flowers
were impatient, thrusting their green limbs
through the dark to burst into being.
The bed brimmed with seedlings,
perfect miniatures that grew larger
and blossomed, a rich carpet of pink, cream,
At the end of the season, green pods swelled
into chambered fists clenched around a pinch
of tiny brown seeds. Young pods held firm,
but the largest ones burst at a touch,
flinging the seeds into the air and dirt.
After weeks of rain and sun, these too rose
into being and bloomed. The bed
crowded with life, each plant stretching
towards light, their lacy roots still interwoven.