Archives for posts with tag: motherhood

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I Am Passenger; He Is Driver
by Shannon Milliman

I am passenger. He is driver. He is scheduled to test for his driver’s license.
He has asked if he could drive the two-hour route, mostly freeway
And with light waning into hours of darkness.
I told him yes, he could drive but every cell in my being wanted to say no.
I am still waiting for the moment when the gift of agency
Feels triumphant.

Do you know what it is like to give up control in the seat of the driver?
To have uncertainty that the flesh and blood in your male mirror image has the practice and mental agility to drive in City conditions at night getting his sister and mother and self to safety?
In my mind I whisper that he wants to preserve himself, too.

There is no reason he would want to fail in this endeavor. He is equally vested in safety.
Is this faith? Is it the opposite of fear?
I breathe. I tell myself to breathe. I remind myself of the mechanics of what it takes.
Fill these balloon vessels with oxygen.
I remember when his balloon vessels first filled with air and he cried,
Arriving on planet earth, little, tiny 5 lbs. 14 ounce Moses, We gave him a name and a blessing
To live up to.
A name that assured he could do the impossible.
He could part waters.
He could drive us to Astoria, Oregon.

I hid my two hands, which stressed and wrangling one another like two chickens in a cock fight. I hid them in my husband’s blue knit FedEx cap.
I can’t believe Simon has kept this hat that long.
He worked at FedEx when Moses was about 2 years old.
I remember Moses rambling off on his own.
Slow to speak, quick to think, this little guy had a mission and left the safe quarters of our apartment complex and pitter-pattered his little patent leather shoes
All the way to the edge of busy thoroughfare, Glisan Street.
A police officer and a man swooped this toddling two-year-old up
And asked him where he should be. No words. He pointed home.
I did not even know he was missing.
Adrianna, his next youngest sister, was a newborn.
I had birthed my first anxiety attack wherein I thought I was dying.
Three was infinitely more children than two.
Embarrassed that I did not know my son was on the verge of death
And simultaneously grateful he was safe home with a stranger’s help.
All this while Simon worked at Fed Ex wearing the cap
Now on my hands hiding my presumptive grief when we all crashed and died.

We might make it
To Gnat Creek Campground where there are only four campsites,
First come, first served, it is a January Friday night.
How many suckers out there would brave the cold?
The odds are ever in our favor.
Moses had cheated death before.
Please may he cheat it for all of us once more?
I could imagine the three of us,
Rainbow age eleven, me age forty, and Moses age sixteen, setting up camp.
I watched Moses gather lint from the car and tinder
From the wrapped towel he brought along with plum hardwood
Trimmed from the tree in our backyard.
We let it dry by the radiator in Simon’s music studio for three days
But before that it was outside in a Pacific Northwest winter so who knows.

If you watch well enough the meandering road
And if you shift your weight enough,
And grip the rubber handlebar tight enough
And remind yourself to breathe,
You will breathe
And you will get there.
And there we were, us three around that fire,
Safely roasting a marshmallow
And smashing it next to a graham cracker
And a Symphony bar square.
Oh, the mellowness of chocolate melting in my mouth.
Safe, secure, together.

When we pull into the gravel campground
And find out we are the only people there
I look up at the infirmary of stars.
I had prayed heavenward.
God, please protect my little man child.
Were they blessing my boy Moses?
Leading him like they led the wise men to the Christ Child?
I tell my Moses I am sorry
I hesitated to let him drive,
That he did an excellent job.
He did.
His pace was steady,
His switching of lanes confident.
It is so easy to say sorry afterwards and so much harder to trust him when necessary.
Why, oh, why was it so, so, so, scary?

PHOTO: Crossroads by Ehrif, used by permission.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shannon Milliman is a playwright and performer who has performed her autobiographical, one-woman play, Not So Supernova, about the jagged edges of motherhood and marriage in Oregon, Alaska, Pennsylvania, and Idaho. She is writing her grandparents’ life story and has studied memoir at the Attic Institute (Portland, Oregon) and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Brigham Young University. Shannon has five children, a musician husband and is a Certified Professional in Talent Development and works as a Benefits, Disability, Leave Services Trainer at Amazon. Visit her at shannonmillman.com, and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, Youtube, and applepodcasts.

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I Am Still Waiting for and on My Daughter
by Joan Leotta

For the past forty years
I have been and still am waiting
for and on our daughter,
excitedly, hopefully, with awe and wonder.
From the first day of knowing she was growing
Inside me, I dreamt about her,
how much she would love me,
my husband and our family.
Fraught times, waiting, lying on the floor
prying by her bed all night listening to her breathe
when she fought pneumonia,
it was hard to see the joy of waiting
listening to her cry when hurt, or angry
waiting for the right moment to
comfort her—these times were harder waits.
Her growing up, leaving home gave new
things to wait for— times
when she visits, when she calls,
and those large blocks of time
when we’re not with her.
Every day brings some excitement,
some new reason to choose to anticipate
the ways that hope and joy
will shape our day or fret and worry,
which steals away joy from any waiting.
I am still waiting
for the big and little things
to hear from her how
the everyday elements of her day,
play out rejoicing when she can call.
Most of all I hope that observing
how I still wait for her has made her
own waiting practice
a time of joyful anticipation.
Yes, I am still waiting.

PAINTING: Mother and Daughter by Mary Cassatt (1913)

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“To wait with openness and trust is an enormously radical attitude toward life. It is choosing to hope that something is happening for us that is far beyond our own imaginings. It is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life. It is living with conviction that God molds us in love, holds us in tenderness, and moves us away from the sources of our fear.” Henri Nouwen

 NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This quote helped me home in on what I wanted to say about waiting for and on our daughter,  being with her, praying for her, waiting to hear about her day even when she lives six hours from us now, the secret of seeing, waiting as joy instead of fretting, worrying and hopefully by example, having passed this on to her.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: A hug in Piazza di Spagna, Rome, Christmas 2014.  I’m on the left, daughter, Jennifer Leotta, is on my right.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. Her work has appeared in several Silver Birch Press collections, and is recently in or forthcoming in When Women Write, Spillwords, Ovunque Siamo, and others.

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I Am Still Waiting for My Heart to Catch Up
by Cristina M.R. Norcross

After celebrating our youngest son’s
15th year on this earth,
I am still waiting for my heart
to catch up with the hurried footsteps
of time.

I am still waiting for my arms to realize
that my sons don’t need me to lift them
into a car seat anymore.
Our oldest can now drive
the car himself.
My prayerful thoughts
can still guide them,
willing them to arrive safely in our driveway.
My steadfast words
of faith in their gifts can uphold them,
like scaffolding offering support
at vital pressure points,
or the red training wheels from bikes
now gathering dust in the garage.

I am still waiting for my invisible shield
to go unnoticed,
but this will never be.
They see the candle of concern in my eyes.
They notice the way my attention hovers,
the laser-like focus of my mother brain,
as I listen to their needs
and remember those they never even thought of.

The time of stepping on Legos and wiping
tomato sauce from chins has ended,
but the tiny hands
that once held my finger in sleep
will know that reaching out
always results in finding me.

Like music from another room that lingers
and dances me into the next chapter,
I am still waiting for my heart
to catch up with time.
So I keep looking down at my watch,
then up at the sky,
where the robin’s egg blue of tomorrow
promises to cradle my sons’ hopes,
even when I can’t be there
to open the door.

PAINTING: Motherhood by Pablo Picasso (1901).

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The blink of an eye that was 2020 caused time to race like a swift runner. Try not to close your eyes, I thought. You just might think we skipped a year and leapt into the next one. Time passes quickly enough for parents, while watching their children grow up. Our lives become busy, spinning wheels of school, activities, and chores. The pandemic caused time to both stand still and flow rapidly, like a river. Our teenaged sons grew by leaps and bounds this year, while we were looking out the window at the world, with longing. I hope that we can all slow down and take a breath. I am still waiting for my heart to catch up with time’s arrow.

PHOTO: The author’s sons in younger years.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cristina M. R. Norcross is the author of eight poetry collections, and is the founding editor of Blue Heron Review (2013-2021). Her most recent book is Beauty in the Broken Places (Kelsay Books, 2019). Her forthcoming poetry collection, The Sound of a Collective Pulse, is due to be published by Kelsay Books in Fall 2021. Cristina’s poems have  been published in Visual VerseYour Daily PoemPoetry HallRight Hand PointingVerse-VirtualThe Ekphrastic Review, and Pirene’s Fountain, among others. Her work also appears in numerous print anthologies. She has helped organize community art and poetry projects, has led workshops, and has also hosted many open mic readings. She is the co-founder of Random Acts of Poetry and Art Day.  Visit her at cristinanorcross.com.

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How to Do It All
by Paige L. Austin

You wake up to your alarm at 6:30 a.m. after three hours of sleep, your head spinning with everything that needs to get done. Chores, deadlines, errands, school projects pass in front of your mind’s eye while you brush your teeth and check your email on your phone. You walk out of your bedroom with a full laundry basket and let the dog out back, drop the clothes by the garage door, and grab a protein drink from the fridge while you feed the cats meowing after you, put away clean dishes while you mentally prepare for your first staff meeting of the morning. You put the laundry into the washer on your way to your home office. The floor needs to be vacuumed today. You sit down at your desk and turn on both computers. It’s 6:45 a.m.

The kids wake up at 7 a.m., and by then you’ve cleared out your inbox and have a plan, detailed and soothing in an Excel spreadsheet you maintain for just this purpose. You pause your work life to help your husband get the boys ready for school, grabbing the older one’s bag while you chase the one-year-old around the living room to get a shirt on him. He is half-naked and shrieking-gleeful about it. His joy is the highlight of your morning at 7:15 a.m.

You have 20 minutes of complete silence while your husband takes the boys to school. You wash your face and get dressed properly, play a mindless level of Soda Crush in defiance of the day ahead, take a deep breath, and jump back into the fray.

You make a doctor’s appointment while moving between your bathroom and your office. You order groceries while you wait for your meeting to start.

It’s 7:59 a.m.

PHOTO: Spinning plates by Conceptual Motion, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As a working mother, I feel very keenly the pressure to succeed at everything, to “do it all.” The truth, of course, is that it’s an impossible task and only sets you up to fail over and over again—but that doesn’t stop me or any other working mother I know from trying anyway, often to the point of utter exhaustion. The above is taken right from a typical start to my day.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paige L. Austin is a professional magazine editor with a Master’s degree in writing and publishing who has recently returned to the creative writing fold. Visit her on Instagram and at paigelaustin.com.

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BRIDGE
by Catherine Zickgraf

Back when she had Raggedy Ann red carpet and
baby brothers in their cribs between sky
walls next door, she delighted in
her big girl room.

She’d sing from her depths and swing around her
bed posts. She was still too little to untrack
her closet doors, incline them, and slide
kid brothers from bed to floor.

Yet ideas grew during afternoon naps to become
bridge-crossings on boards leveled toward
toddler sister’s bed—for whom she
prayed so life would always

hold joy. They built a castle with the new bed but
dreamed in the other till baby sis turned
nine—too big next to teen sister’s
third trimester belly.

None grown among them, the infant didn’t come
home. After the hospital, big sis slept alone,
ceiling-staring, seemingly idea-less,
lost for the rest of her childhood.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: I’m 14 in this photo, visiting my son at Bethany Christian Services adoption agency, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, December 4, 1990 — the last time I held him as a baby.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Bridge” opens the book I’m currently writing, Soul Full of Eye, about learning to see beyond the visible world. I placed my firstborn for adoption when I was 14.  Such a powerful experience changed me, rendered me silent for the rest of my childhood.  I have since found many of the words I’ve been looking for — I’m confident there are more to be found.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Catherine Zickgraf has performed her poetry on stages in Madrid and Puerto Rico—yet homeschooling her boys inspires her the most at the moment. Her chapbook, Every Clock Has Its Place, is available through Sweatshoppe Publications. You can find her work at http://caththegreat.blogspot.com.

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We’d like to wish a very happy Mother’s Day to all the materfamiliases in the world — with a special tip of the hat to women who take time to read to their children.

You may have tangible wealth untold

Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold

Richer than I you can never be

I had a mother who read to me.

From “The Reading Mother” by STRICKLAND GILLILAN

Painting: “August Reading to Her Daughter” (1910) by Mary Cassat