I confess that reading Julia Kasdorf’s poem “What I Learned from my Mother” this past Sunday made me teary. But, if there is a day for no-holds-barred sappiness, it’s Mother’s Day.
In many ways, it was my first Mother’s Day as a mom. My son is eighteen months old so I now fully understand what it is to be a mother. The work and patience it requires, but also the great joy it generates. Instead of feeling like I needed to be laden with roses, I felt that I was the one who should give thanks for the gift of having a son.
Yes, lots of sappiness this week. But I hope there is room for more, because Kasdorf’s poem below is worth shedding a tear over.
What I Learned from my MotherI learned from my mother how to lovethe living, to have plenty of vases on handin case you have to rush to the hospitalwith peonies cut from the lawn, black antsstill stuck to the buds. I learned to save jarslarge enough to hold fruit salad for a wholegrieving household, to cube home-canned pearsand peaches, to slice through maroon grape skinsand flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.I learned to attend viewings even if I didn’t knowthe deceased, to press the moist handsof the living, to look in their eyes and offersympathy, as though I understood loss even then.I learned that whatever we say means nothing,what anyone will remember is that we came.I learned to believe I had the power to easeawful pains materially like an angel.Like a doctor, I learned to createfrom another’s suffering my own usefulness, and onceyou know how to do this, you can never refuse.To every house you enter, you must offerhealing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.
To read more about Julia Kasdorf, visit her pages at The Poetry Foundation and at Penn State University, where she currently teaches.