I saved a Valentine’s Day rose from my son for twenty-odd years.
Then, when it fell apart, I still saved the petals with the card which read, “To the most beautiful girl I know, my mom.”
He was sixteen that day when he brought me a rose at work, handsome and a foot taller than me.
And very smart, because while my tears were still messing with my make-up, he hit me up for a loan to buy his girlfriend a dozen roses and I gave it to him with a smile and a hug…
I kinda knew I had been played, but his technique was awesome. He played it so smooth, almost a man.
He is forty now and I know I’m not the most beautiful girl in his world…two other awesome ladies were destined to share that spot and I love them.
Still, every time I come across the faded card, the sweet words and the dried-out petals…I smile.
I close my eyes and for just a moment, I soak in the memory of his surprise visit, back to the moment when to my son, I was the most beautiful girl he knew…
My pictures are a memory I can hold in my hand. My kids always said, “No more pictures Mom,” but I snapped away. As they have grown older, they too snap up every moment with their cell phones. I like to think that I taught them to capture moments. Today is slipping by fast, the hour glass never rests. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow…just a hope, but my pictures are forever and they will exist long after I’m gone. Every picture in this collection has a story. Collecting them for this post has inspired me to make each of my kids a scrapbook instead of leaving behind hundreds of discs. I thought the only thing that I would leave them was my writing. These pictures reminded me that my life has been full of joy and laughter, tears and traumas, but most of all love. That is what I shall leave them. Love. The proof is in the pictures.
Here is an article my son Rick, wrote for me about pictures. I love this.
prisoner of war, can he ever forget what he
heard, what he saw?
turns on the TV, slams his bedroom door
still hears their shouts, damn their stupid war!
love has been beaten wrong side out by thoughtless acts,
lost to words that pound like fists,
scream and shout!
no hands were laid upon her, twas conflict that stripped her bare
naked soul withering, disintegrating, until she didn’t care.
bruises fade to yellow, begin to melt away
fresh sounds assault the soul, raising welts of colorful array.
she slips in to say goodnight, he pretends he doesn’t see
whispering to herself, a trembling hand shuts off his blank TV.
secrets confront his ears, unrelenting silence surrenders up to him her fears.
my angry son, when you grow up and are a man, will you take prisoners of war?
will you beat them with your voice, bruise them with your anger and never
lift a hand?
will you use their love to build a prison, design each brick to beat them down,
enslave their trusting hearts?
when she cries, will you turn your head, slap her face with words instead?
will your harshness sting and blind her eyes, cloak the disorder you disguise?
when she sobs herself to sleep, wondering if she’s insane,
will you kiss away her tears just to strike again?
prisoner of war, can you ever forget what you heard, what you saw?
when you leave this house can you wash clean, shed the stench of in between?
can you ever forget what you heard, what you saw, can you ever be released,
our prisoner of war?
by Jeanne Marie
I began writing at fourteen but when I started my family at nineteen, I think that the sterilizer vaporized my creativity. I figured that it had boiled away with the germs on the baby’s bottles. Occasionally, I’d have a poetic burst, but by the time I was twenty-six, I had three children screaming for my attention and my writing ceased.
I told everyone that I was a writer, but my kids kept me too busy to write. “When the kids grow up,” I’d say. When the kids finally went off to school, “prove it” anxiety set in. I thought about having another baby, but that seemed rather desperate. I had to face facts. It was time to write. I began slowly, but regained my confidence as the words poured from me. Poems began to accumulate and I’d read them to friends and family.
In 1988 I bought an electric typewriter and started to organize my work. I also took my first college class. I enrolled full time, but the schedule overwhelmed me. After one week, I’d dropped all the classes except for one, Country Song Writing.
Many of the students were my age, which was encouraging. I continued to write, even bought a computer, but I often let kids, grand-babies and housework come before my writing. Then in 1994, a drunk driver killed my son-in-law, Donnie. He kissed his wife and his tiny son good-bye that morning and less than ten minutes later, he was dead. His sudden death caused me to reevaluate my life and to focus on what mattered most. I found out that it wasn’t clean sheets or dustless floors, not even baking delicious desserts or cooking big meals. Again, I enrolled full-time in college. This time I stuck to the plan. My husband was supportive and he took over some of the household chores. Some, I just ignored.
I decided to treat college like the ocean. The only way to go in the icy cold waves is to close your eyes and to run into the surf as fast as you can. Once you make it past the undertow, the waves are breaking in front of you, not sneaking up from behind and the water feels warmer as your body temperature adjusts. The gentle swell rocks you as you swim and the blue-green horizon stretches out as far as you can see.
I enjoyed learning in spite of the tremendous workload. I usually stayed up past midnight doing homework for Comp. I, memorizing outdated laws for Criminal Justice, (don’t even ask me how I landed there) or cramming my head with strange definitions for Biological Psychology and then I’d get up at 5:00 a.m. to study for a test or to finish an essay.
I got past the undertow and I finished the semester on the Dean’s list. (My mom wanted a bumper sticker.) When younger classmates asked me how I was able to do so well, I’d smile and say, “Underneath this bleached blonde hair is a smart brunette.”
The changes in my priorities did upset my fifteen-year-old son (my youngest child) especially since I’d stopped cleaning his room and I’d begun to consider heating a frozen pizza cooking supper. One night, he told me that I was too old to go to college. I laughed at him. He asked why I couldn’t wait to go to college, at least until he was grown-up.
I said, “I’ve already wasted twenty years cleaning closets and vacuuming under the furniture. By the way, you need to do a load of laundry if you want clean jeans for school tomorrow.” As he shook his head and walked away, I smiled.
After five years of working as a sports journalist/photographer, I decided to leave that job and I reevaluated my writing goals.
I’m not afraid because I know I’ll find another niche where my words fit and I know that the answer for me is to just sit down and let the creativity I’ve been blessed with guide me. It also helps to know that the only way I can lose my status as a writer is if I stop writing.
P.S. My kids did grow up, faster than I ever dreamed possible and I now have fifteen grand-kids, ages 28 to 3. I have also been blessed with five great grand-babies. The grand-kids are growing up even faster than the kids.
The picture above is grand-baby #13, Jonas, playing with me at the beach.
As I care for my plants, l smile. I especially treasure the many plants that my grown son has sent me, plants that express his love for me in a flowering way, long distance. I even save the bows that the florist wraps around each gift.
Last Christmas, my son was visiting and he asked me what I wanted and I said a Poinsettia because I know that they are plentiful at Christmas time and inexpensive. As much as I love his gifts, I still feel a twinge when I receive from him because I have given to him since he was born. The fact that my son has matured and wants to give back to me thrills me beyond measure, but I knew that this year, like most of us, he was counting his pennies.
He went far beyond a Poinsettia. Check and mate. He carried in a huge pot of climbing ivy with a tiny poinsettia hiding in the middle. I instantly realized that he had outmaneuvered me. I put my arms around my handsome, six-foot son and I said, “ Thank you, I love it.”
These are the words that get me through lately.
I look for them over coffee and a cigarette, before the sun breaks.
A smart ass remark comes to my head every time I see them.
It says “Yeah right, Jeanne Marie isn’t fast enough to tag me!”
But that one remark in my mind is immediately greeted by a tailspin of thoughts.
“Yes, she is,” I laugh, trying to pull my mind out of this tailspin, because I know it’s going to keep charging towards the ground until it reaches that cold December day in 1978 when we first met face to face and then slowly gain altitude through a mist of memories until it’s over and it meets me here, where I started.
“She is fast enough, she moves differently than you! She is calculating and precise, while I move zigzag and fast, all over the place, wasting energy, while she plans her next move like a chess player.”
I giggle it, over and over in reality, hoping that laughing about it will take me back to the present day and I won’t have to make this 1,000 mile per hour journey through my past until I finally reach myself when I was young.
But to no prevail.
It’s not that I mind. I have so many great memories of my mom, and I can’t wait to see the two of us young, in that sun that seems more orange than it is today, laughing.
But I also know I cannot control the memories.
I couldn’t stop from hurting her feelings, the way that I can watch the things that come out of my mouth today.
I am much smarter now, but the things I said in the past were at times dumb.
Things I said when I thought I knew everything, with no intention of hurting her.
I just wanted her to see how smart I was…even if that meant I had to prove her wrong.
(I know now that I rarely proved her wrong, but she would listen to my rationalizations and kindly shrug her shoulders yes and say “hmm”.)
Jeanne Marie tagged a photo of you.
Has she always been doing this? Before The Facebook was here to tell me she was doing it?
My mind firmly tells me yes. Jeanne Marie has never been far from my thoughts,
but it wasn’t till now that I realized that I haven’t been far from hers.
Jeanne Marie tagged a photo of you.
I can’t wait to see what photo caught her attention this time.
Is it something that made her proud of me?
Is it something that gave her the warm feeling of being a good mom and a sense of family?
Is it just a silly snapshot that was taken, that when done, turned into a captured moment that we treasure?
Did I ask her not to take this photo, only to thank her later for taking it?
Jeanne Marie tagged a photo of you. Today 6:00 am.