The gift I bring my mother

At fifteen, I tape recorded an interview with my mother and took notes as well. I lost track of the cassette, but the handwritten notes were tucked in my grandmother’s journal. There I found my mother’s account of her kindergarten graduation.

 Everybody’s mother would come and bring a bough of roses….we lined up for assembly and my mother wasn’t there. And there were no roses…It came so close and there were no roses…and it was just as if there was no mother. Somehow they were so symbolic—no mother, no roses, and someone had to fill in…they handed me someone else’s roses. And when I went out it was okay because I looked out in the audience and there was my mother. So I knew it wasn’t the same—no mother, no roses—because Mother was there in the audience. But I guess sometimes when you are little, a few minutes can be a long time. And you suffer.  
 
It is 1935.
I am not yet born
but I am traveling back
rounding the corner with an armful of roses
arriving on time
for your kindergarten graduation
bearing a bouquet elegant and fragrant
 as the mothers themselves.
I am running breathless
down the sidewalk
weaving in and out.
Wait! I holler
my voice too small to persuade the latch
on the gate.
 
It is 2008
and like your mother I am late
but you are not waiting for roses anymore.
You’re waiting for me to save myself—
to gather handfuls of velvety petals
strewn from the tumult of my life—to lift them
one by one into a potpourri.
You round the corner
to the scent of roses, the fragrance
of your daughter—redeemed.
 
It is 2014.
You call me worried that I am sad.
Much as I want to name the cause
I can’t find it—not at first—no, not until
I think of standing in the apartment you share
with my sister: the photos of us on your wall
a testament I will place in a box
when you are gone.
 
We have come so far: you—the mother
who always arrived
early, flowers in hand
and I—now fifty-five, fingering petals
pressed and dusted as butterfly wings—
to whom, to whom
when I pack that box
with my palm full of roses
will I belong? 

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