Poetry: Talking to My Mother, the Only Way I Know How
Thank you to the woman who made her son sign up for basketball when he was five, even after he pulled her into his bedroom, away from his father, tears in his eyes, and told her there in the dark, “Momma, I'm scared—I don't know how to play."
Thank you to the woman who never told her son to stop dribbling on her linoleum kitchen floor, the woman who never told her son to stop pursuing his passion when it was raining outside, even though he turned the paint between the top of the door frame and the ceiling a dirty beige, the space where he'd decided to place his imaginary goal.
Thank you to the woman who made her son write every spelling word he'd missed, every sentence he hadn't punctuated correctly, every state capital he hadn't memorized, every multiplication table he'd miscalculated, all of them, ten times each, sitting in the back of his father's newspaper office, before he could watch TV.
Thank you to the woman who told her son that she'd take a week off of work if he ever made a C, that she would come to school and reside in the desk beside him to understand why her son, who was more than capable of a B, wasn't living up to his potential.
Thank you to the woman who made her son believe that she would follow through with her promises, so much so that he never made a C, not in high school, not in college, not ever, because it didn't matter how old he was, he knew that his mother would take a week off of work and reside beside him.
Thank you to the woman who told her son to always take pride in himself, the woman who buried her husband and chose part-time jobs over bankruptcy, the woman who paid back every dollar she borrowed to keep the credit card companies at bay, to keep her son's head up, to keep her teenage son focused on anything but his father being gone.
Thank you to the woman who made her son tell her where he was going, when he was going, and why, but almost never said, “No,” the woman who allowed teenage boys to stay up all hours of the night, hollering over PlayStation and SportsCenter and girls, eating bowl after bowl of the chili she'd cooked, while she locked herself in the bedroom, alone in the dark, to make sure her son focused on anything but his father being gone.
Thank you to the woman who told her son that she was flying to New York, despite having never been to New York, that she was sleeping on a futon in Queens, him on the floor, if it meant having Thanksgiving dinner with him in Hell's Kitchen, if it meant knowing that her son, who’d become so distant, was okay, if it meant knowing that her son, who’d become so thin, had something good to eat.
Thank you to the woman who never made her feelings known about her son's dreams, never told him he should come home, never told him to give up, never told him to pursue something more practical, never told him that he’d lost his way, only that she’d given him the tools to find it on his own.
Thank you to the woman who never told her son of her tears, her sleepless nights, her loneliness, her fears for him, only of her hopes for him, her prayers, only of her certainty that her son will be happy.
Sorry to the woman whose son has never told her how much he appreciates the untold sacrifices, the apparent sacrifices, the sacrifices that brought them through.
Happy 4th and happy 60th, Momma. We're gonna be alright.