Sunday Morning Muse with Mothers on My Mind


Everyone wants to remind me that it’s mothers’ day –a day that clearly holds Hallmark irrelevance while calling forth complex emotional responses. The grammatical confusion alone is enough to make me cringe; let’s see, is it “Mother’s Day”, “Mothers’ Day” or “Mothers Day”? Funny, or not so much, but when I hear the word “mothers” my first thought is of Frank Zappa, followed closely by the slur M-F’er.

Like many women who call themselves, or are called by others, mother, I have a lot of baggage to unload (or suppress) when I consider my personal history. So I try not to go there on a day prescribed by a consumer notion. But ignoring hasn’t worked today. I just read a version of the first “celebration” of mother’s day which was the brainchild of one Anna Jarvis, whose mother was a community health activist (Yay for that! ).  Apparently she came to despise the national holiday. Her story below is sad, but edifying.

Jarvis died in a sanitarium in 1948. The holiday she created lives on.
Today, more people purchase flowers and plants for Mother's Day than 
for any other holiday except Christmas/Hanukkah. This year alone, Americans 
will spend $23.1 billion on the holiday. And most of that money will be 
spent on jewelry: $4.6 billion.

So. I have difficult memories of both having and being a mother.  I learned to love my mother late in her life, and am grateful that we managed to become close before her death. I lost custody of my son when he was barely five; yet he is and always has been my greatest joy. So whoever you are, whatever you are feeling on this day, be gentle and kind. Not everyone has the same associations with this day.  I share this, but only for myself.

In which my brother goes to her grave and I shed a tear

My brother goes to the grave
site and says farewell
to the engraving on the rock.

I live far away and today
the buttress crumbles and I miss my mother
for the first time.

I don’t know why he does it
knowing and not knowing him so well
is all I have to go on.

Debt, veneration, relief, it’s all
so mixed, right? Maybe in his melancholy
he hoards an image of our family,

but I feel misplaced today, weepy
as if disowned, shorn from that photo
not like me at all, the cold unfeeling

bitch of me, knowing and not knowing
myself so well, with no urge to go on
after so many years.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Sunday Morning Muse with Mothers on My Mind

  1. onedressblog says:

    Thanks Risa! I may or may not hear from my sons today. We are not estranged. It’s just how they roll. Never cards or flowers. And I was always just that person, cards and flowers for all occasions. So it’s a never-ending adjustment, reminding myself of the commercial aspect, of it not being important WHEN they think of me. Or make contact. Though I always wish it was more often. But when I nearly died last year, the son who is least in touch, came to take care of me. Which meant everything to me. I almost told him he didn’t need to come but a nurse in the hospital asked me when was the last time I saw him? Three years. She said: he needs to come. And I jumped on her lead. : ) I didn’t really succeed in loving my mom before she died. I behaved well and lovingly, which was the best I could do. I really appreciate you sharing this with us today.

    • Deb, what I learned, when I took care of my mom at the end, is that behaving well and lovingly is what love actually is. Turns out love is not what we thought it was when we were younger.

  2. dianne says:

    Hi Risa,
    I want to thank you for your candor, and I can definitely commiserate with what you feel. I, unfortunately, never felt close to my mother even to the end, even though I loved her. And I took care of her, in all facets of her life, for seven years until she passed away. You are blessed that you managed to become close to your mother before she died. I can only imagine the peacefulness that comes with it. Your poem was poignant, and especially when you wrote, ‘and I missed my mother for the first time.’ That is how I feel today.
    Take good care.

  3. Mark says:

    Strings still attached from within and without.

  4. Pingback: Risa Denenberg | If My Memory Serves Me Well | The Town Crier

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s