‘One Last Poem’ is a prelude poem to a poem I wrote for my mother. She is the one my first book is dedicated to, signifying the love I feel for her, even though she is no longer on the same plane as those of us who are ‘living.’
She carried me inside her womb for nine months and cared for me until I could care for myself. I cannot imagine early life without her. I remember being heartbroken when she had to go to the hospital for a week. I was only three or four years old and cried on the back doorstep.
She was my proem. She was my prelude. She was my preface, my introduction into the world. She was my promise. She was the one I could run to for a hug anytime of the day or night, until I could not.
She was the one who rocked me after I fell down the basement stairs as a small child and comforted me after I tried giving our cat a bath. The poor kitty dug her claws into my arm and scalp like a climber’s pick into ice. I realized in that moment that cats did not like water.
Mom was the one who took me to coffee hour each week with the neighbor ladies. I was too young for school. One neighbor had two Siamese cats who were wild and crazy curtain climbers and howlers. Another neighbor cared for her own mother and auntie who spoke in thick Scottish brogues. I could not understand a word.
Mom was the one who celebrated each family member’s birthday with gifts and a cake. She was the one who made and placed our Easter baskets on the dining table early Easter morning. She was the one who boiled the eggs. We drew lines on them with wax and dipped them in food coloring added to vinegar water. The Easter Bunny, depending on the weather, either hid them outdoors or in the house. Rain and snow were never conducive to finding eggs. After being discovered, the eggs rested in a dish on the dining room table until they were all eaten, a week or so later.
Mom was the one who took me with her each week to her hairdresser, Maurine, who always had the latest McCall’s magazine. She handed me scissors to cut out the paper doll and dress her while she fixed Mom’s hair. Occasionally on a hot summer day Mom treated me to an icy soda pop at the lunch counter in the five and dime.
Mom was the one who held my hair with one hand on my forehead and her other hand under my belly whenever my stomach became upset and vomited its contents in the middle of the night, on countless nights. She was the one who soft-boiled an egg and dry toast to settle my gut the following morning.
She was the one who prepared all the family meals and presented them on a tablecloth covered table, in their special bowls and on their special plates. She ensured our meals were nutritionally balanced from all the food groups with much variety. Home-canned fruits and vegetables fed us all year long until the following year’s harvest.
She was the one who sewed tiny Barbie doll clothes on the sewing machine to be sold for our Camp Fire Girls’ fundraiser. She must have had the patience of a saint. The clothes turned out lovely, even though she hated to sew. I understood why after taking home economic classes in Jr. High school. Nothing I sewed years after turned out. I finally gave up the practice.
She was the one who helped me study for tests by quizzing me the night before. Good grades in school were very important in our home. She was the one who drove me to Camp Fire Girls, 4-H, and all other activities after school. She was the one who joined the PTA. How she made the time for it all, I’ll never comprehend.
She was the one who ensured we visited the cemeteries on Memorial Day as a family. Arrangements of flowers, homegrown purple or yellow irises, or pink peonies, depending on which were in bloom, arranged in a coffee can with water, found a new home at each family headstone, along with some family history for our impressionable ears. It was a full day’s outing. It always left me feeling sad when I was young. That was before I fully understood that the soul was eternal.
She was the one who contacted the Tooth Fairy when it was time for him to fly in through the window and leave a shiny nickel under the pillow in fair trade for a recently lost tooth. Of course the nickel would be spent at the candy store…
She was the one who packed the brown wicker picnic basket for Sunday outings and for the July 4 celebration every year. She was the one who filled bread bags with homemade popcorn and quart-sized Mason jars with ice water when we went to the drive-in movie theater in the summer, a very special treat. Six of us poured into the family station wagon, sleeping bags laid out in the back, the littlest ones already in our pajamas.
She was the one who made chili (and packed extra crackers) and hot cocoa for our winter outings to the South Hills to inner tube down the snow-covered mountain somewhere behind the ski lodge.
She was the one who didn’t like to play board or card games, but couldn’t stop herself from answering a game question out loud from the kitchen.
She was the one who made Christmas the most special holiday of the year, fully expecting all of her children to be there every year. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. She was the one who wrapped all the presents when we were little and made a tradition of oyster stew with canned smoked oysters along with her own special twist on the recipe for Chex party mix. I can still smell it baking.
She was the one who looked like a princess when she wore her blue chiffon floor-length formal for an especially special evening of dancing with her prince on New Year’s Eve.
She is with me always. I can feel her spirit nearby and appreciate her for sharing her love so freely with me. She’s in my heart and in my voice.