Tag Archives: Mothers

The Drying of Sheets in the Wind

                                      photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash, used with permission

The Drying of Sheets in the Wind

When the world seems in a mess and you wax sanctimonious,
railing at the ills of those who make it less harmonious,
remember that life’s curses are only temporary.
When world events eat at your mind and the world feels scary,
remember bed sheets on the line, drying in the sun—
the sound of flapping in the wind as their drying was done.
The smell of bright clean sunlight on each wind-softened fold,

or the cracking of their ice crystals stiffening in the cold.

Remember their warmth around you, fresh from mother’s mangle?
Snapping them out in the air, her bracelets’s harmonious jangle?
Her even movements folding them, then spreading them once more
 for you to slip into your bed as she stood at the door,
storybook in hand for that nightly big procession
through story after story, read in that grand progression
of venturings into a world that seemed so vast and magic,
long before you knew the world to also be so tragic.

Let memories of your mother still be a comfort to you—
with memories of fresh white sheets. And let them both renew you.

 

Prompt words are sheets, temporary, curse , sanctimonious. Wow. What a list. How are these going to come together?

China Bulldog

China Bulldog

I dreamed last night that we were clearing out my mother’s house.  The front doors of all the kitchen cabinets had been removed and I was puzzled about this.  On the mantelpiece, I found China bulldog after China bulldog that was a replica of one I one my mother had told me to take home with me when I cleared out the house after my father’s death.  “Judy asked for this. You can fight over the rest.” said a note taped to the bottom.  A mayonnaise jar, it was of white glazed ceramic that had a rainbow sheen.  Its head came off as a lid and its bright orange tongue was the handle of a spoon.  The body fit into a depression in its saucer that had the outline of the bulldog’s feet and bottom so it nested a bit.

One of my first memories was seeing it sitting on the small triangular shelf in our kitchen.  My mother never used it and later, in newer houses where it didn’t suit the decor, it always sat within a cupboard.  My mother was too modern for China cabinets or knickknacks that didn’t match the color scheme.  When I was small, her taste went to magenta and chartreuse.  Beige and pink and turquoise marked the seventies, the turquoise and pink traded in for avocado and burnt orange in the eighties and back to a more understated green and beige in the nineties.

Whatever the color scheme, the bulldog never quite fit in, but it was the one object asked about by both of my sisters after the Loma Prieta earthquake.  I I was living in a house near its epicenter, and the bulldog had worked its way from the back of my kitchen cupboard to sit teetering on the edge, but it had not fallen.  It was one of the few things in a house packed full of art and artful objects that I chose to bring with me to Mexico.

I’d like to say that it has assumed a position of importance in my house in Mexico, but sadly, the China bulldog just never quite seems to fit in to the mainstream.  It has sat on a shelf in my studio for the past twelve years, somewhere near the back where it is safe but unseen.  But for some reason, if I were to be able to take one more object from my house, the China bulldog is what my mind falls upon. Perhaps it is time to think about why.

I often dream about a subject that ends up being my blog topic for the next day.  For some reason that topic fits into the prompt and so it is never very difficult for me to begin the day’s writing.  In this case, once I’d settled on the bulldog as my topic, I immediately remembered that in my dream I had found five or six bulldogs on my mother’s mantel.  Some were without bodies, all without their dishes.  Some were smaller than others and lacked the brilliant sheen or bright colors.  One seemed to be almost crumbling, as though it had been under water for a long period.  All were missing their tongues.

In the dream, I imagined my mother combing second hand stores and never being able to resist whenever she found a bulldog in the same shape as the one her older sister had given her when she was a child.  It’s been at least 100 years since she received that strange gift that was the only remaining thing that seemed to have been brought with her when she moved first from Missouri, then to Kansas and then to South Dakota, to marry my father.

She told me no stories about it and as I think about that, I realize she told me few stories at all.  Not about her wedding or my birth.  The stories in my family all centered around my father while her stories seemed safely tucked away on a shelf like the China Bulldog.  Perhaps that is why that one piece of all the pieces of my mother has assumed a center place in our memories. I know that my middle sister, who lived in the same town as my mother for the last six years of her life, has mourned her loss the most over the years.  My oldest sister, who was estranged from Mom for the last twenty years of her life, is in the throes of Alzheimer’s and so never mentions her at all.

It has been fourteen years since her death and I don’t think of her daily or even weekly, but every so often, something happens and the thought comes in a flash that I have to be sure to tell Mother about it; and for the past year, most of my poetry has been written in her joking, rhythmic cadence and rhyme.  Perhaps some essence of her that has been steeping in me for over sixty years has suddenly reached its saturation point and must come out.

And the China bulldog?  The dream? It is as though for all these years she has been trying to get it back, never quite replacing it but nonetheless not giving up the search.  And I can’t overlook the irony that it is these less perfect incomplete bulldogs that she chose to put on her mantel.  Is she trying to tell me something about beauty or the adherence to a dream or about giving up perfection to enter back into the quest?

My mind ricochets without finding an answer, but I continue to feel the prompt.  Perhaps there is reason in the name “wordpress.”  I feel that press to find meaning through words as I feel my mother’s gentle prod and communication through genes or memory or dreams, to leave perfect things behind and to get on with my life.

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The Prompt: Burnt—Remember the prompt where your home was on fire and you got to save five items? That means you left a lot of stuff behind. What are the things you wish you could have taken, but had to leave behind?

Happy Mother’s Day!!!

With everyone posting pictures of their moms, I couldn’t find one on my computer, so this will have to do. The wet hair tells me my mom has just finished washing my hair by having me lie on the counter and put my head in the kitchen sink. I have on my pink chenille bathrobe with brown flowers with yellow centers and I’m sure I’m talking to Lynnie Brost on the phone. Someone on our party line might be listening, but what secrets might two five-year-olds have that the whole neighborhood cannot know? Later my mom will put my hair up in curlers for those awful sausage curls that I thought were the only way I would ever wear my hair. Mom, in an hour and a half, I’ll leave to go read a poem about you at Open Circle. Wish you were there in the audience. Perhaps you will be. oxoxoxooxox to Eunice King Dykstra—remembered by all who knew her as “Pat.”

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NaPoWriMo Day 25: She

She

She was fingers drumming lightly on my arm while I fell asleep,
a box of candy that my dad had to hide or it would be gone by morning,
fingerprints of bright coral rouge staining the top of her powder puff.
She was a girl’s rhymed diary that told of filling the church elders’ hats full of Bon Ami powder.
A fatherless girl sleeping with her sisters on a sun porch in Kansas.
A sister of a girl who wore a nightgown to a ball,
the sister of a man who couldn’t stop drinking,
the sister of a girl who died in the great flu epidemic of 1918
and of a father who died in the great flu epidemic of 1918.
She was the sister of a woman who died in childbirth
and the sister-in-law of a man she did not marry to raise her sister’s child.
A woman who liked radish and onion sandwiches
and cornbread and orange Jello with shredded carrots and pineapple.
She was a girl late to marry who lied about her age until in her nineties.
A woman who never told her real name to daughters
until her daughters were women as well.

She was a good friend who never revealed secrets.
A woman who finished her housework quickly to lie on the divan and read.
A woman with a mangle who ironed the body and arms of shirts
while her daughters ironed the collars and cuffs.
A member of the Progressive Study Club who wrote all the plays for State Conference.
The woman who wrote the play, “The Hillbilly Wedding”
that started out, “Ye critters and Ye varmints, we are are gathered here today
to wed this man and woman in hillbilly sorta way.
H’ebenezer, Hannabella, do ye promise to be true and always love each other?”
“We do, We do.”
She was the mother who played silly tricks on her pre-teenage daughter
and hid in the closet to see if they worked.
The woman who had all her teeth pulled on the same day and nearly bled to death.
A town girl who lived in a tiny trailer with my father on the empty prairies of Dakota
and traveled from dam building site to site with him the first year they were married.
The town girl with no bathroom, so they had to park by service stations to use theirs.
The girl who counted to see how long she could hold her hand in the oven
to determine when the heat was right to bake cakes in her wood-burning oven
and who swam with her mother-in-law in a large stock tank.

She was the woman who took her daughter out on summer nights to look for U.F.O.’s.
The woman who never learned how to play the piano
but insisted her daughter take lessons for 8 long years,
and the woman whose daughter never really learned how to play the piano.
She was the trainer of dogs and parakeets and baby bunnies
rescued from the prairie by my dad.
The assembler of Halloween costumes and the decorator of Christmas trees.
She was the woman whose Christmas decorations one year were entirely silver and pink
and who made an elaborate chandelier ornament out of sprayed coat hangers.
The woman who drove her daughters 60 miles to buy saddle shoes
and 150 miles in the opposite direction to see an eye doctor.
She was the woman whose husband loved babies—
the woman who collected spare babies in restaurants
to take them to her husband to hold
while their mothers finished their meals.

She was the woman who showed her daughters how to make
Philippine lanterns to use as May baskets.
The woman who dressed up as a witch for Halloween and was so good in her role
that she sent children screaming down the sidewalk.
The woman who took off her mask for the rest of the night.
She was the woman who made up long rhyming poems about what pieces of the body
were being handed around the circle in a darkened room on Halloween:
a peeled grape, a bowl of spaghetti, a piece of liver.
She was the woman who covered lamps with sheets and pinned on
paper ghost eyes, nose,mouth.
and who collected corn stalks for decorations.
She was the woman who loved Halloween
but loved Christmas even more.
The woman who hid grass nests full of jelly beans and sugar eggs
all over the house every Easter.
The woman who found one of her own nests when decorating for Christmas.

She was the woman who loved to read who could read her daughters like a book.
The woman who could sometimes read her husband like a book—
the woman who said, “What did you do? You brought home another animal, didn’t you?”
the day my dad entered the living room with a sheepish look,
even though he’d left the rubber boot with the tiny puppy inside in the mud room.
She was the woman who had said the same thing
when he brought home the bunnies, the kittens, the tiny mole, the raccoon and the magpie.
She was the woman with the quilted satin robe with the long train
that the baby bunny hopped up on for a ride around the house.
The woman who taught Chipper, the parakeet, to say,
“Hello, Betty Jo. Judy Kay. Judy Kay. Patti Adair. Gee you’re cute!
Gimmee a kiss (kissing sounds). Baaaaaaad Benny!”
She was the woman named Pat whose husband was named Ben.
They were the couple whom later we later learned were really
Eunice Lydia and Gerben Sylvanus.
She was the wife of a rancher but gave him three girls.
They were the ones to insist all three girls go to college.
She was the mother whose travels had extended from Kansas to South Dakota to Iowa
who gave permission for her daughter
to set out to travel around the world
when she was still in her teens.
She was the woman who convinced her husband to move to Arizona
the year her youngest went off to college.
The woman who sold her mangle and became a fashion plate again in her 50’s.
She was a woman with four swimsuits
who did 1,000 exercises in her Arizona pool every day.
A woman who went dancing every Friday night,
who tried to take up golf and failed,
who lay on her chaise on her patio and read books
while her husband went to the corner café to regale his new audience with old stories.
She was the woman who flew to Australia to visit her daughter.
The woman who traded houses every few years
for the fun of buying and decorating a new one.
She was the grieving wife who said, “Ben always hated that clock!”
and watched it fall off the wall.
She was a girl and woman and old woman who believed in ghosts
and who slept near Hadrian’s Wall in the haunted room
of an eleventh century Abbey in Scotland.
She was a woman who played with a cat on Dylan Thomas’s sea wall
and who slept in a room over a pub as well as the Grosvenor House in London,
where she saw Garfunkel walk across the hotel lobby.

She was a woman who liked to sit and look at the decorations in her living room.
An old woman who drank aloe vera and vinegar
and did leg exercises in her bed each morning.
An old woman who got a machine to help her read.
An old woman who listened to the news all day when her eyesight failed.
A woman who bought a breathing machine when her breath failed
and walked around her condo trailing a long rubber oxygen tube.
An old woman who lived to be 91
and who lived alone till the day she died.
A woman who put on makeup and jewelry and who dressed up
every day until the day she died.

I was her collaborator in writing silly rhyming poems to send to my sisters in college.
I was her collaborator the day she dressed like an old woman
and sat in my dad’s chair,
setting him up by saying, “Dad, there’s an old woman here,
and I can’t get her to say anything.”
When she sat hunched over in her white wig,
her shoulders shaking with suppressed laugher,
he said, “We’d better call the sheriff. I think she’s having a fit.”
She was the one who actually never grew old in my father’s eyes.
The one who lived alone for nearly 30 years after he died.
She was the one who wanted a boyfriend to take her dancing whom she didn’t have to kiss.
The one who wore the Evening in Paris perfume
I bought her every mother’s day
until I was in my teens.
The one who fed the baby coon with a doll bottle
and bathed and baby powdered it every day
and put it underneath my covers when I had the measles.
The one who went from matronly house dresses
to wearing my castoff college clothes.
The one who created a whole new life
when her children left and pulled my father after her.

She is the one who has been gone for 13 years.
The one who very rarely passes through my thoughts.
The mother who did what the best mothers always do.
Who released her children into the world and let them go.

Here is a link to the photo of my mother I wanted to use with this poem three years ago when I wrote it but couldn’t find then : https://judydykstrabrown.com/2018/08/01/parental-support/

Today’s prompt was to write a poem using Anaphora–a literary term for the practice of repeating certain words or phrases at the beginning of multiple clauses or, in the case of a poem, multiple lines.