It is an honor to welcome social media maven and talented wordsmith Sarah Flaherty to share her best Mother’s Day thoughts for readers of All Nine. A self-described bookworm and work-out junkie, Sarah is also one of those rarest of individuals: a quietly insistent and steady voice for kindness, fair play, and quality work. Follow her tweets at @SarahLiz815.
No love like mother-love ever has shone;
No other worship abides and endures,—
Faithful, unselfish, and patient like yours:
None like a mother can charm away pain
From the sick soul and the world-weary brain.
Slumber’s soft calms o’er my heavy lids creep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!
From "Rock Me to Sleep" by Elizabeth Akers Allen
When I was young, my mother used to hold her
hand to my forehead and rub her thumb in the space between my eyebrows. It was
as though she had hit my own personal "Relax" button—a switch that
would calm my breathing, stop my tears, ease my mind. I wouldn't be able to
stop my eyes from closing. I do the same thing now to my husband when he has a
headache, and I'm sure one day I'll do it to our children. It's more than just
a soothing movement; it's an expression of love.
For Mother's Day, I wanted to find a poem that would express the gratitude and
love I have for my mother. The passage above was a little too Hallmark-card for
me at first pass, but what I love is its simple message. So many of the poems I
found were too complicated, too modern, too focused on the memories of a
mother who has passed, or the complications of dealing with a mother's
illness, or the intricacies and faults of a mother/child relationship.
All true expressions, in their own rights—but not what I was looking for.
With a few exceptions, I don't normally connect with poems published before the
20th century. They feel too grandiose (case in point: the exclamation point at
the end of the stanza above), too large to find a way in. The camera is
"zoomed out," as one of my college professors would have said. I
can't get close enough to see the intimacies, the brushstrokes, the
imperfections that invite me into the poem in a human way.
As I write this now from my husband's parents' house, I hear my mother-in-law
on the phone upstairs speaking to one of her other three children (all in their
40s). "Love you, kid," she says as she hangs up. That's what I'm
looking for, I thought. A poem that expresses the purest, tender love a
mother has for her child that prompts her, 40+ years after their birth, to
still call them "kid." And that's what I like about the excerpt
above: it gets at that timeless love, the love that remains regardless of
illnesses, passings, disagreements. It's beyond that. It's above that.
In Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert describes writing in her journal
when she felt scared, lost, or drained. It's been a few years since I read the
book, but I remember she talked about a voice that would emerge from the page
and guide her forward. It was her own voice, of course--but a wiser, more
honest part of herself that spoke only when she was willing to listen. I'm
blessed that my mother lives just a few miles from me and I can call her or
stop by when I'm overwhelmed with life, irrational fears, or anxiety. And
she's always there to help me dig for what's true, to tell me (and, more
importantly, help me believe) that everything will be okay. But
when she's not immediately available and I have to find that voice to help me
move forward, the voice of wisdom in my head is my mom. If I can think
about what she would say, what advice she would give, I'm always better
off. It's just one of the gifts she's given me, but it's one of the most
valuable, guiding my writing, my work, and the way I live my life.
Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there—and to my own, I love you.