The weekend after I turned sixteen, my mother showed up. Sure, she’d missed the big day, but then we never did dwell much on ceremony and anyhow, until then she’d overlooked every scarring ricochet in my skewed trajectory towards womanhood. Without her along to show me how, I’d been wearing my new found femininity as if it were two sizes too big; shuffling along in a flush of feigned flippancy.
So after twenty two months silent, I was surprised and secretly pleased to know that she’d remembered without prompting the day, sixteen years earlier, when I’d been cut from her stomach and lain, blue and bawling, on her naked breast; the first of three rude shocks to be placed there. This was our anniversary. And she had come.
After sharing our space for a few days, we understood that she’d soon be gone. Then on the third night, she pulled me aside. Following her into my bedroom, we sat beside one another on a sagging foam mattress while she rifled awkwardly through her bag, uncovering a book filled with poetry and proffering it to me.
For the briefest of moments, I caught my mother peering tentatively from behind a shield of false confidence to observe how her toughened daughter would respond. Bewildered, my guardedness fell away, making space for recognition at the sight of her poorly painted mask, as if catching a shaky reflection in a tainted pane of glass.
She stared at the empty palms lying in her lap. I looked at the book. Letting it fall open I found the words she’d inscribed on the inside cover.
Like mist in the morning you came to me, showering me with love.
And I took it all in; as does the grass.
Clearing her throat she took my hand, and held it like a resignation; light and loose and absent. A ticket for a ship that’d long since sailed. She said nothing. The following day she was gone.
For my sixteenth birthday my mother gave me poetry. But despite countless hours cradling that book of words, I’ve not had the heart to page past the naked lines she penned; an exposed underbelly of romantic sentiment.
A silent revelation of my mother’s best intentions.