Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day

I wrote this at the Big Yellow. I have nothing to explain except to say I am a Mother and a Daughter and that has taught me more about Love than I could ever wish for.


Mother, she asked. How do you know when love is real?
All love is real, she said. She had that wise smile on her face her children would remember even when the call came about their Father. Even when they wheeled her into surgery, just before dawn and just after she wrote out the goodbyes that were not required after all.

Mother, she whispered. I love but I cry.

Do you cry because you feel or because you bleed? she asked.

She said, I don’t know, Mother. Sometimes memories and longing carry me to the silver stream where we used to camp. But then I fear I love too much and I wonder if I will be swallowed by it.

Mother paused. The movement of her arms and chin barely flickered. She smiled again.
“Daughter” she said, “There is no too much love. There is only enough love.

But separation causes pain, she said.

Yes, mother said, that is love.

Moments feel like days, she said.

Yes, that is love.

I forget myself, she said

That is love too. Mother’s green eyes looked straight ahead. She lifted her chin and waited.

But I’m told I care too much, expect too much, that I am too sensitive, that I am too vulnerable. I’m told I would survive.

That is incorrect. Mother said.

But if it’s incorrect, how can I explain that?

You can't.

And it’s incorrect, how will I know?

You must see if she whimpers when you brush her hair and if she sings when the sun rises, just when the birds begin. You must watch how she reaches in her pockets and whether she notices the northern star. You must toss your head back and laugh when she tells you you love too much, and you must wait to let her character unfold.

But, Mother. How do you protect yourself?

You don’t, she said.

But what if love is not enough?

It is.

But what if you dance and then ache and then double over at midnight?

Mother smiled again. You wait, and then you see.

Part II

Mother, I love her.

Then you will let the angels guide you. You will risk everything.

My Mother walked to the sink and quietly folded the cotton dishcloth in half and then again. She patted twice it with both hands and turned to me.

Love is all you will ever need she said. It will bring you everything. Without it you will die.

But mother, how do I know?

You have to listen. You have to study and choose a pure and precious heart.

How, Mother? Can you tell from birthday gifts, or kisses on the forehead, or from the nights when my moans strip me naked and I can only hope I am not devoured?

My Mother smiled. Love comes from your own heart. It is the place you can only know when you have arrived there.

Mother, is it like the love I have for you?.
Will it cause me to enter a burning building?
Will it bring me to my knees?
Will it last, mother?
Love always lasts. It is only hope that doesn’t.

But can there be love without hope?

Mother took two steps back. She braced her arms and softly fell into the chair.

Daughter, she said. I am old. I have watched a child die, lost my husband two hours after he finished breakfast, survived a life of hunger and poverty, and sacrified everything for my children. I tell you that once love enters your heart, it lives there forever. You can be scorched, abandoned, forgotten or misused. You can lose all hope. But you never ever lose love. Love is like just like that. It takes root and before you know it, you’re all tangled.

And you’re tamed.


  1. Oooooh, goosebumps. What a wise, sweet mother, indeed! I feel a link coming on.. beautiful piece, than you.

  2. I feel like I was standing right there for these two conversations ... lovely, KJ! And a very happy Mother's Day to you! Your post about your vacation was such fun to read -- you really see a place when you're there. I'll give you a secret about Krispy Kremes ... if you get one that hasn't just come off the belt (those are beyond heavenly ...), you can take the not-so-fresh donut and stick it in the microwave for 3-5 seconds ... voila! Hugs from down here in PA to up there in MA.

  3. Love is such a simple thing, and yet we believe it to be so complex.
    I love this post of yours, all the questions of someone immature, and we have all been immature. Thank God for mature parents to help us along. Happy mothers day indeed!

  4. shrink wrapped scream, thank you for visiting me and for your very kind words. i look forward to reading through your posts.

    melissa, happy mother's day to you, my friend!

    pieterbie, you really are a doll, and a wise doll at that!

  5. Hi KJ,

    Happy Mother's Day to you. Another beautiful post.

  6. “Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life...You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love.”
    -Neil Gaiman-


    Happy Mother's Day !

  7. KJ, I loved that.
    It is true that you cannot protect yourself because you do not need to whatever happens.

    Happy Mother's Day!
    Ours was on March 18th.

  8. I don't see any point in all these struggles. I like Pieterbie's comment. Love and life are simple. We can do away with melodrama - my term for May. I am tired of my stomach acting up from stress and anxiety from this so called "love". I think sometimes that is infatuation that causes all those troubles. Real love comforts even when one is beset with longing. True love does not alter the peace.

  9. sidney, thank you so much. this captures what it feels like to have your heart broken as painfully and realistically as anything i have ever read.

    cream, yes, protection can only go so far. the heart is niave and brave.

    ces, i see this very differently than you. i'd like it to be simple but sometimes it isn't. and sometimes even longing, even when it can't be helped and even when it is surrounded by love, can physically hurt. we human beings are simple, but we are also complex. and love changes us.

    i had my heart broken in two once and it took me almost two years to be ok again. i think sidney has nailed the darkest side of love that i alas understand...


  10. This is so beautiful Kj! It made me cry a little bit. I am going to share this with my sisters.