view counter

What Does Your ­Mother Mean to You?

It’s complicated

Except for Eve (and Adam) — as former Maryland poet laureate Michael Glaser points out in this week’s paper — every one of us has a mother.

remembering to Eve, try to imagine …

how she never knew a mother
or the fruit of a kind and nurturing hand.

    In turn, every one of us is a son or daughter. As the seven-year CBS standard-setting series The Good Wife ends on Mother’s Day, my thoughts turn to what it means to be a good daughter.
    “That’s ultimate praise,” I said the other day to a friend whose 94-year-old mother shares her home.
    “Do you think so?” she said, perhaps feeling the weight of obligation.
    With my mother 28 years dead, the weight I feel is regret. I feel the regret of missing her — and the regret of having been a very imperfect daughter. For what she wanted most was to be understood in her own terms. That I could not do when she was alive and ­kicking.
    For children, a great shadow blocks the light of understanding. We are throwing that shadow. Only a very little light passes around the child to illuminate the person on the other side of the mother-child relationship. Her motherhood is so central to our child that we can’t see beyond it to whoever she is besides our mother.
    Mother-blindness is not mine alone. That’s a ­discovery I made reading the poems that make up our Mother’s Day feature.
    In calling them to me, I made no hypothesis, primed no pump. I simply sat down on the floor to surround myself with the books of poetry on a small bottom shelf. Many of the thin books there are the brainchildren of local poets. T’was them I addressed, as well as one or two more whose poems I know by ear rather than eye.
    Will you contribute a poem? I asked each. My only stricture: It must be about — ideally to — your mother.
    Most sent single poems, and I printed what I got.
    How often these mothers appear in the shadow of the child!
    Or emerging from that shadow, as in Glaser’s irresistible A Blessing for My Mother, one of the half dozen poems he offered for this issue

Though she drove me to the brink,
it wasn’t ’till I got there, I think,

that I finally understood:
what she aimed for was good.

Blessed be her intent
Blessed be what she meant.

    Read them in the feature story Better Than Hallmark, and you’ll see what I mean.
    Still, I think you’re in for another surprise — as I was. All together, they cover quite a bit of the sublimely complicated relationship of mother and child. Ranging from three lines to 33, each — being a poem — has more to say than is readily apparent. Though some will tease and fret you with elusive meaning, you’ll feel what they say. Poetry is good for complicated emotions because it doesn’t reduce them to abstractions.
    Have you figured out the terms of your unique partnership in this universal condition?
    In other words, what does your mother mean to you and you to her?
    The simplest answer: It’s complicated.
    No wonder so many people buy greeting cards to speak in their stead.
    To try your own, follow this feature with What’s a Mother For, on how grieving granddaughter Janice Lynch Schuster used drawings to tap into motherlove.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com