Another Mothers’ Day has passed, the sixth since my own mother passed away. The living mothers in my family number nineteen in all: my wife, two daughters, three sisters, two sisters-in-law, ten nieces, and one grand-niece. All were recognized and honoured by their children, many on social media, and it was lovely to witness.
But I still miss being able to pay homage to my own mother each year—to hear her voice, see her smile, smell her perfume; and mostly, to feel her arms around me. We knew each other for sixty-seven years, with nary a breach in the trust and love we shared, and my world is emptier without her.
On her ninetieth birthday, four years before she died, I wrote this poem to convey what she had meant to me for so long. I likened her to a tree that sheltered me until I dared to strike out on my own, and even thereafter.
At the time, I thought I had written it for her; but now, I suspect, I wrote it for me.
For ninety years and more, my tree has spread her boughs across my yard,
Festooned with leaves providing shade, standing tall and proud, on guard.
When I was young, and climbed up high into my tree, carefree and fleet,
Her branches hugged me safe and close, held fast my hands, secured my feet.
As I grew braver, I would stray beyond the fence that kept me in.
But at day’s end, I’d rush back home to settle ‘neath my tree again.
Her boughs would gently bend and blow about my head, and whisper soft,
And tell me of the wide world they had seen from high aloft.
Sometimes she’d bend, tossed by storms that raged around us, blowing fierce,
Yet, ne’er a storm could match her strength, nor through her loving shelter pierce.
Then, all too quickly, I was gone to seek a new yard, far away.
Yet always I’d return to hug my tree, and feel her gentle sway.
Too big by then to climb once more her branches, high o’erhead,
I still found comfort there, among the fallen leaves my tree had shed.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Past ninety years, yet still she stands, her canopy now drooping low,
Creaking, bending, in the winds that shake her branches, to and fro.
As spring and summer fast have fled, and fall has turned her leaves to gold,
My tree displays a majesty that can be neither bought, nor sold.
And I’ll remember all my days her love, like ripples in a pond,
Because I’m sheltered now by younger trees—the seeds she spawned.
For ninety years and more, my tree has spread her loving boughs each day
Above my head, to nurture me, and gently send me on my way.