Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Mother and Daughter, July 2008


Last summer we, your four adult children,
thought we would be burying you before
Christmas, next to dad on one of Colne’s
green hills. So, today I kneel, weeding your soil
at eight a.m., having woken at four when the sun
pointed long fingers through the skylight in the loft
extension you built after he died.
You emerge from the conservatory.
You stand over me in your English garden,
your robe, quilted and embroidered with roses,
snags on the hydrangea bush as you lean forward
without the aid of crutches. You forget
to use your knees to protect your lower spine
which from experience, we both know is not
sensible. Legs astride, you say: “I usually squeeze soil
from the weeds with both hands like this.” Your hands
clench unclench clench close to my face, veins
like green-blue rivulets, your fingers like mine, cracked
from dry weather--hands I watched for years as they
fashioned puppets from papier-mâché, molded
pastry for meat and potato pie, crafted Victoria
sandwich cake, or stitched sunflower hot pants
(matching sets for my sister and I).
I manage to reply without gritting my teeth,
I give you my reasons for using the trowel--
you watered yesterday, so the clay soil
will not crumble as easily as Lancashire cheese.
To my ears, I sound patient. But you know me
so well. You know how close I am
to reminding you that at forty-seven years
I have owned a few gardens myself,
acquired a number of practical skills:
I spackle and paint, shop for bargains, drive, bake,
raise your grandchildren, have bought and sold houses,
moved country (when eight months pregnant),
am, in fact, capable of weeding a patch
of soil without close adult supervision.
When you are no longer there
to micromanage me, how will I know
my adulthood? It won’t be by this list
of skills, but from standing on my own
two feet on American soil unable
to cross the bridge of you back to my childhood.

Cath Mason’s work has been published in both the U.S. and the U.K., most recently in the U.K. journal Pennine Ink. Her poem “The Out of Body Experience of a Potato” won the humor prize in Southport Writers’ Circle 2012 International Poetry Competition. She lives in Tampa, Florida, with her husband, two sons, and a succession of “borrowed” pets.

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Brings tears every time. Beautiful topic, wonderful language. I am proud of you.
Love it!
Beautifully descriptive...felt like I was standing in the shadow of your gardening experience...observing this daughter-mother dialogue...Fantastic!!!
Oh my word Cath!! Beautiful!! I can just picture you both in your Mum's garden. Especially love the last paragraph, the description of the bridge of your Mum back to your childhood. Stunning!! When you're not too busy, would love to see more ;) Lots of love Heidi x x x
This is beautiful, very moving. Definitely hit home for me. I can picture Gran perfectly and it made me really want one of her meat and potato pies! Love you xxx
As if any of us Howley's would tell anybody what to do!! Can picture the scene vividly Cath, especially the gritted teeth (can't believe you would've been able to suppress this!) Wonderful piece of writing which brought tears to my eyes. Love you sis, keep writing Caroline xxxx
Cath...where to start?..Wonderful. Look up and we 'grit' to our mothers look down and our children are gritting their teeth at us (or me). Nothing changes? Your description of memories of your childhood mother explains a lot about you. Not all mothers even good ones who did their best and did well - spent time 'fashioning puppets or crafting victoria cakes. And what a beautiful testament to her you are.x
Beautiful Cath!!! X
Beautiful, descriptive language Cath - brings back memories of a childhood in England as well as my own challenges with an aging father. Great perspective and very well written.
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