They were fifty-six years apart, the first poem I wrote for my mother and the final one. I read them both aloud to her, the first as a second-grader when she was thirty-five, the last on her ninety-first birthday.
The first was entitled simply Mother’s Day, and it went like this—
Mother’s Day comes in May,
So here’s a card to make you gay.
I imagine, but cannot remember for sure, that I read it word-by-word—as. early. readers. do. I like to think—but do not truly remember—that she praised me fulsomely when I presented it to her, and hugged me tightly. Perhaps it was even taped to the refrigerator door for a time. That thought pleases me.
For the second one, however, I know I delivered the reading with all the emotion and sentiment she deserved, and again with all the love I felt. She was more subdued this time, listening carefully and nodding as I read, her glistening eyes fixed on a distant past only she could see. Her smile when I finished was enough.
The second one was titled My Tree—
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 past 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.
My mother has been gone for several years, and as I creep inexorably closer to her venerable age, I scarcely believe the passage of time. It has been said that a boy’s best friend is his mother, and even now, that adage rings true. She will be with me ‘til the day I die.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mum!