poems between mother and daughter

In May of 1986 my mom found out she was about six weeks pregnant with me. She didn’t know much about me yet, but she decided to write a poem to me called “Precious”. It went something like this –

Precious

Precious little hands & feet
Growing now inside of me
Little fingers – little toes
My little baby

Precious little nose & eyes
To light your face,
Complete your smile

Precious little voice
To sing praises to our
Heavenly King

Precious little gift
From God, you’ll
be a special blessing

Precious even now
Unknown – except
by Your creator

She called me precious for most of my life. And she still talks about how much she loves my nose. Oh, moms.

Last October my mom’s birthday was just around the corner and my sister and I decided to try to throw her a surprise birthday party. We hadn’t had a birthday party for her in a few years (shame on us) and she’d never had a surprise party. Circumstances conspired and tried their hardest to prevent this party, too. We had sent out all sort of Facebook invites and made plans with family and friends from church. Close friends of ours let us use their house and all I had to do was make a cake.

However, the weekend of her birthday party she wasn’t feeling well. She’s a school teacher and any teacher’s kid can tell you that on the weekends most teachers seem a little under the weather (it’s a combination of exhaustion and working in basically a petri dish of diseases). But as the weekend progressed she got worse and worse. Finally, Sunday morning (the day of her party) she decided to go to the doctor. Her absence from church was highly unusual and many of our friends kept asking what our plans for the day were. I held out hope we’d still get to have the party. Her birthday is late in November and pretty much once we’ve hit her birthday it’s the downward slope to Christmas and there’s no time for anything. So, I told them we’d wait to see…

Turns out she had extremely high blood pressure and the doctor was shocked she was still capable of moving around. She rested some of the afternoon and Camille and I went off to get things ready under the pretense of a dinner with our friends that Mom and Dad were going to join us for. When the time rolled around for her to leave my mom wasn’t really feeling up to it but my dad convinced her to get in the car. She kept asking him to turn around and take her home but he told her just to hold on. When she walked in the door my young cousins accidentally popped out too early, but mom didn’t really notice. We kept the surprise from being too loud because we didn’t want to give her a heart attack and it took her a moment to realise that everyone was at the house for her. She couldn’t believe we’d pulled it off. I was shocked myself. And really happy she’d made it.

When it came time for gifts I handed her a card with a poem inside. I was proud of the poem. She only got halfway through reading it aloud before she started to cry. When Camille finished the poem there was hardly a dry eye in the room. My oldest sister actually smacked the back of my head for making her cry (a loving gesture for sure).

I thought of these poems when I realized I would be reviewing Amy Tan’s book this week. It’s all about mothers and daughters and the sort of unexpected connections they share. Twenty four years later I wrote a poem to my momma about all the things she’s been to me.

To my mother on her birthday –

A pinkbowl for cakes
Pinecones for counting
Fingers for holding
Laps for sitting
hearts beats for listening
This was my childhood

A guitar for strumming
Discussions at the table and
stories while driving
You watched as I puzzled
things out and taught me Truth
This was the middle

And now there are more discussions
Plans made and dreames gazed upon
Stories shared when inspiration struck
Music played, songs that moved us,
Movies watched and books read
And You walked alongside me, offered me advice
This is my young adulthood

You’ve been so many things for me
Playmate, Teacher, Pete,
Friend, Consoler, Guide
and always Momma
Ema Sheli, The mother of me.

Ema Sheli is Hebrew for My mother (at least in the very rudimentary level of Hebrew I know). That’s my momma, ya’ll and there’s so much more to her. And all the frustration and elation of being mother and daughter is hardly capable of being summed up. The day of her birthday party was a particularly unusual day for me. The reality of losing my parents was thrown into sharp relief. I made my parents promise to take care of themselves and each other. We’re far too young for there to be an end, yet. I know that is a slightly morbid set of thoughts. However, I really just wanted to take the opportunity to make a nod to my mom, our unique relationship and celebrate the differences between us and how we’ve grown together the past few years. One thing I found myself thinking a lot during TJLC was you never really know how long you have, so don’t leave anything hanging.

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