Today would’ve been my mother’s 97th birthday. She passed in 2001 after a long illness, but even after all these years I think of her daily. Most of the time they are happy thoughts, though bittersweet because you never stop needing your mother, no matter how old you are; the truth is, most of us don’t realize that until we’re old ourselves. So today, I’d like to honor her by sharing a few poems inspired by the best mother anyone could ask for.

Mom'sBirthdayCollageBlog

February Remembers
(for my mother, born February 6, 1919)

Through a window I watch snow fall,
fat flakes blown in the wind.
Warmed by the scent of hot chocolate
and thoughts of you,
I contemplate how long before
this sweet interlude ends
and it will be time to shovel the walk.

I remember the story
of your father’s trek through a blizzard
to get the Italian midwife
who carried a gun for self-defense.
Tiny and perfect,
you arrived before they did.
You said it always snowed on your birthday —
or right around it.

There was no snow a fortnight ago,
but February remembers,
albeit belatedly.
Warm with memory I watch the snow
drip from the eaves like tears.
I remember too.
[From Poems from the Edge of Spring ©2011]

 

Today

Most days I can outrun the melancholy,
focus on bright, happy memories
and let my spirit be lifted up.
But not today.

Today is your birthday.
It’s sunny and mild,
a beautiful February day
with none of the snow
you always predicted.
I would be happy with snow
if it meant you were still here.

I wanted to get you a card
and struggle to find the perfect gift
to let you know
just how much I love you.
I wanted to pick up the phone
and hear your happiness
at the sound of my voice.
I wanted to knock on your door
and surprise you with a cake,
but I could do none of that.

Today I bought yellow roses.
Today, alone in a sea of cold white marble,
I sang Happy Birthday to you
and wished for the impossible
on invisible candles.

 

Even Now

I can see Mama’s black marble composition notebook
with its lined pages
opened to reveal hand-copied quotations
and poems she fancied.
I can still hear her read bits of Ogden Nash aloud:
his purple cow and its sequel.
There are newspaper clippings
held with cellophane tape that yellowed with time,
along with pamphlet programs
from concerts in the park,
where we sat in the grass sharing
pitchers of beer and lemonade
from the refreshment stand
while the band played on.
When we grew bored with the music
my sister and I were soothed with promises
of a ride on the carousel when it was done.
What fun, on a warm summer evening,
to ride around and around
with the strung lights dancing as we passed by.
Even now,
when Mama’s makeshift scrapbook
is long gone to who knows what end,
I remember the little things
she thought were important.
My heart is filled with volumes of them.
[From When Leaves Fall ©2012]

 
Missing You

I see you clearly, waving goodbye
in your sky blue house dress
with the big white polka dots.
Tears run down my cheeks
from the moment the car leaves the curb
and for the next two hours of the drive.
I am inconsolable with homesickness,
no matter that a week in the country
away from the sizzling city heat
is supposed to be fun.
It isn’t, even if my aunt does have a big pool
and the ice cream man drives down her street twice a day.
I’d rather run through the sprinkler in the park
and be with my parents.
It’s the longest week of my young life.

The day you come to save me from this torture,
I sit on the porch, bouncing with anticipation.
When you arrive, I jump up,
feeling free at long last;
I race to greet you
and throw myself into open arms
that pull me so close
that I’m lost in your ample bosom
in a crushing hug I want to never end.
Happiness overflowing…
No joy can compare to that moment,
no love more heartfelt than a mother’s embrace.
No sorrow greater than the impossibility
of it ever happening again.

 

Game over

Coddled, cozened, and coerced,
I played your games
time and time again.
You never cheated,
but you always played to win;
no handicaps given
for age or innocence.

Even when I didn’t want to,
I played your games
because I loved you,
because it made you happy.
Sometimes it made me happy too,
even though I rarely won.
Mostly I was glad when
you found new games to play.

All the cards are gone
and the dice have been tossed;
the game boards and playing pieces
were trashed long ago.
Game over.
So why do I long to hear you call,
“Come play with me!”

[From A Dance of Dreams ©2015]

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23 Comments

  1. Hello Elise; I loved every one of your poems! I know your mother loves everyone of your poems as well, as she is in your heart always!!! I remember her with great fondness and love and a deep sadness that I did not know her longer! But I knew that she and your wonderful dad were sweet, kind, purest of heart people that I loved and also miss!!!

    1. Thank you, Cindy. They were, indeed, all those things. To know them was to love them. Both of them will live on forever in the love they gave their family.

  2. Elise these are so beautiful, and the memories just poured in, I remember your homesickness, I remember her clippings, but mostly I remember her twinkle in her eyes when she smiled,I don’t think I know anyone whose eyes twinkle like hers, Love you Elise…

    1. Thanks, Suz. I remember that twinkle so well–you catch it sometimes in photos or whenever she sang the “Oh, Johnny” song (which is probably why I used to love to make her sing it for me). We were blessed to have her for our mom. Love you, too!

  3. Such a beautiful tribute to your mother–your love shines through every word. If there’s anything to astrology, maybe you and I get along so well because I share her birthday. 🙂

    1. Linda,
      It could well be. My mother, my husband and one of my daughters are all Aquarians. (Sarah’s birthday is actually tomorrow–Mom was upset that the doctor didn’t deliver her on the 6th for her birthday.) 🙂
      Thanks for stopping by and letting me know you enjoyed the poems.

  4. Dear Elise
    What a great birthday gift to your beloved mom she is very proud of you and that’s a fact with love.you write so beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes and Michele…..her mom will be 90 Feb 26..God bless….she was my favorite aunt…

    1. Thanks so much, Herb. It means a lot to know the poems touched you. To know my mom was to love her, that’s for sure. And a Happy Birthday to Michele’s mom too.

  5. Yes the twinkle… But even more amazing is the legacy she left behind! Two strong amazing daughters who became beautiful mothers themselves. 4 grandchildren who’s hearts will have forever be marked with all that love! Plus bingo halls for me with 20 cards laid across the table and my one … Lol!

    1. Nicole,
      The bingo cards made me laugh–she kept telling Carrianne she wanted to take her to bingo, but I don’t recall if she ever got the chance as by the time Carrianne was old enough her health had deteriorated quite a bit. Thanks for stopping by and letting me know you enjoyed the poems.

      1. Nope. I never got to go. But I’ve got plenty of my own memories. The first time I stayed up until 4am it was with my grandparents. Who else can say that?

  6. A beautiful read and tribute. You create such a vivid image of your Mom. Feels like I know her. Mom’s are special and they are missed. The memories are definitely overwhelming at times. Happy Birthday Elise’s Mom!!

    1. Thank you, Regina. My mom was a very special person (both of my parents were, actually) and both my sister and I feel blessed to be raised in a house where there never was a doubt that you were loved above all things. That didn’t mean getting everything you wanted, only that no matter what, our parents were on our side. There was always applause for the good, pride and encouragement, and always forgiveness and acceptance for the choices they may not have agreed with. Most people who knew my parents loved them. More generous, giving people you’ll never meet.

  7. Though I’ve read most of them before, it was touching to read the collection. Your mother was a warm, generous and engaging soul. She always made me feel welcome in her home. Fortunately I think we both were smart enough to realize how truly special our mothers were when we were very young.
    Joyce

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and letting me know. I think when we’re young, we take for granted the blessings of having that special kind of Mom (and Dad) because they are a constant; they are all that we ever knew. We knew we loved them, of course, and wouldn’t want to trade them (at least on most days ), but I don’t think any of us truly appreciate them until we’re grown and realize that not everyone was as lucky as we were.