long, quiet time of waiting

Family relationships are messy. You ask a lot of your family: solace, comfort, laughter, friendship, love, responsibility. It's never perfect or easy. Mothers often get the worst of it, the pressure and expectations, the constant offering of one's self. In my life, at least, my mother got most of the blame. I realized, however, if I wanted to have a relationship with her that I was going to have let go of my resentment, recognize my own faults and complicity. I needed to see her beyond what she meant to me. I needed to see her as a person.

There are moments in my childhood where my mother features so prominently, I wonder if I've made them up. I wonder if it matters. I remember picking up pecans in the backyard and later, shelling them among the women in my family. I remember catching fish off piers, and stories of alligators. I remember my mother's voice, reading to me and my brother. It is, I think, these small moments I forget when I'm angry or frustrated. I haven't always let my mother into my life, afraid of her judgment or worse, her disappointment, in the choices I've made. At some point, though, I figured it was better than the cold distance of secrets.

I spent Mother's Day with women who have become my family. But I missed the women who raised me, who taught me about independence and thinking for myself. I have been blessed in knowing my grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and cousins. They have all had a hand in shaping my experiences. However, no one knows me like mom. No one supported, encouraged or loved me as fiercely as my mother. She's been my champion and cheerleader, my confidante and advice-giver. So, although the road to our relationship has been rocky, at best, it's been an important journey for both of us.

My relationship with my mother is beautiful because it is real and messy and chaotic and full of love and affection. We drive each other crazy, typically, because I'm so much like my father. I'm learning, though, to accept how much I am like my mother, too. And I would rather have the flawed and complicated tangle of emotions than the chasm that once resided between us. I celebrate the mother I have, with all the shared eccentricities between us and I hope she knows how deeply I love, respect and admire her.


Mother Ann Tells Lucy What Gave Her Joy
by Arra Lynn Ross

A moment of understanding
when the face lights up
and even the trees seem to kneel.
The mossy ground
below a huge willow
by the side of the marsh.
Children who come
with white faces
and turn pink
in the sun.

The sound of sawing in the woods
and the long lone hum
of a boat bearing lumber
down the Hudson.
The sudden deer in the trees,
a streak of white tail
and the hoof prints
filling with water.

The sound of voices
rounding out with grace,
with trust.
And rosehip tea steaming in the sun.
How many times we threw off our shoes
and danced together,
the cool ground under our soles.
And the mud! churned by feet, and horses,
ox-carts and cows.
The open throats
and closed eyes,
that red ringing
inside my heart.

And mornings that Lucy sang
making breakfast,
snatches of hymns
stuck together.

The long, quiet time of waiting.