And for weeks she [Annie Ives] thought about what he had said, fear tingeing every hope for happiness. She saw mothers pushing their baby carriages who seemed wonderfully content, and mothers who were glum and remote. She had memories of the house in Glen Cove reeking of her brothers' diapers, the safety pins nicking her fingers, their cylinder-shaped washing machine chugging all day, babies crying all night, the young boys running their mother ragged. But whenever she even came close to making a decision, her thoughts always came close to making a decision, her thoughts always returned to Ives and how he had been a foundling [orphan], and how much it must have hurt him even to consider giving up the child to make her happy, and she felt more in love with him. With that she thought how having a family would not be so bad a thing to do with this considerate and moral gentleman. And knowing about his past, she could not imagine giving up the child. He never raised the subject, maneuvering those waters quietly. He simply treated her well, and in time, despite her doubts, she let the issue drop. They married in December, as they had wanted.
At first, Annie Ives isn't sure she wants to be a mother when she gets pregnant for the first time. As this passage shows, Annie's view of motherhood is colored by her own mother's experiences. She watched her mother--dead weary, washing diapers and settling disputes and dealing with Annie's alcoholic father--give up everything for her family. All her hopes and dreams. Annie isn't sure she's ready to buy a ticket for that train ride.
Motherhood is a hard job. In the mornings, my wife has to get up with our six-year-old son around 7 a.m., even though her bipolar meds transport her into a Walking Dead state in the early hours of the day. Yet, she knows that's all part of the job description. Sacrifice. Exhaustion. Hugs. Band-Aids. Bug spray. Worry. Tears. That's just what mothers do.
My mother did it for nine kids. I'm the youngest sibling in my family. I always joke with my brothers and sisters that my mother was too tired to really be tough with me. I probably got away with a lot more. I remember the first time I came home drunk. I was a junior in high school, I think. I crawled through the dark house, climbed into my bed, and passed out. At 7:30 the next morning, my mother was at my bedside, shaking me awake to go to the 8 a.m. service at church. I sat in the pew, nauseated and dizzy. Then, after Mass, my mother decided to take me out to breakfast "as a special treat." It was a long, long morning. But, my mother made her point.
My mother's memory isn't so great any more. She repeats herself all the time, asking the same questions over and over. "Is it warm outside?" and "Boy, it gets dark fast, doesn't it?" She can't see very well, either, due to macular degeneration. She can't read anymore. Or watch TV. She plays gin with my father, but she has a hard time seeing the cards in her hands.
It's hard to see my mother diminished like this. She was always the person in charge. Everyone listened to her, including my dad. She cooked dinners, attended parent-teacher conferences, sent out the bills for my dad's plumbing business. And she pushed us kids to be the best people we could be. She wanted to see her children succeed, even my sister with Down Syndrome. My mother never settled for mediocre.
So, today, I just want to acknowledge the mothers in my life. My wife. My own mother. Through all the struggles in life, they never give up. My mother believes my sister with lymphoma of the brain is going to get better. My wife watches my daughter dance and cries. Because that's what mothers do.
By the way, Saint Marty never came home drunk again when he was in high school.
Poem for My Mother
by: Siv Cedering
Remember when I draped
The ruffled cotton cape
Around your shoulders,
Turned off the lights
And stood behind your chair,
Brushing, brushing your hair.
The friction of the brush
In the dry air
Of that small inland town
Created stars that flew
As if God himself was there
In the small space
Between my hands and your hair.
Now we live on separate coasts
Of a foreign country.
A continent stretches between us.
You write of your illness,
Your fear of blindness.
You say you wake afraid
To open your eyes.
Mother, if some morning
You open your eyes to see
Daylight as a dark room around you,
I will drape a ruffled cotton cape
Around your shoulders
And stand behind your chair,
Brushing the stars out of your hair.
Confessions of Saint Marty