One evening, the winter after you were born,
your father looks at me and tells me I am beautiful.
I am pretzeled on the couch, all unbaked arms and legs,
doughy middle. You are attached to my breast, pulling again
at my glasses, my unwashed hair.
Given all this, I ask him, am I doing something beautiful?
Yes, he says, that too.
Shannon J. Curtin is a 2014 Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of two collections of poetry, Motherland (forthcoming from Anchor and Plume Press), and File Cabinet Heart (ELJ Publications), Her poetry has been featured in a variety of literary magazines including Short, Fast, and Deadly, The Muddy River Review, The Mom Egg Review, and The Elephant Journal. She holds an MBA, competitive shooting records, and her liquor. She’s the mother of Quinn, a real boy, and Bruno a dog that wishes he was a real boy. She would probably like you. You can find her at www.shannomazur.com and @Shannon_Mazur.
We pass under the plumb birds on a wire,
each one facing the sun, each black beak
a stark contrast to the fiery
trees the color of the sun,
the bronze and golds and reds
against the blue skies.
Like blue eyes now
closed, a sweep
Candice Marley Conner is a mother always and writer at naptime. She loves all fairy tales and has to take turns with her four year old daughter and one year old son on who gets to be the villain. Evil cackles have been mastered by all. She has work published in Wiregrass Living magazine, Good Taste, Tanning Trends, and Oracle Fine Arts Review. She has a YA mystery out on submission.
Moving through the quiet morning light where her daughters slept in the small, winter-chilled living room, my grandmother reached toward the radiator for a pair of child’s socks. Lifting the blankets, she slid them, freshly-warmed, over tiny waiting feet. The warmth began its gradual climb from leg to knee to belly and chest, settling over the still-sleeping child in a tangible, heat-infused expression of her mother’s love.
My own mother’s voice captures and holds these images, the textures and the quiet intensity of this ritual. The telling and re-telling winds its way into my subconscious and wraps itself into the fiber of my soul. It is my mother’s memory; it belongs to her. Yet, in some small but significant way, I have claimed it, making it my own.
This claiming of memories continues with my own young daughter as she asks me to repeat one story she has come to know so well. She knows about the small scar on my head, the one that came from a heavy wooden attic ladder unfolding on my unsuspecting six-year-old skull, my young frightened mother waking me every few hours to check for signs of concussion. She knows that some forty years later, I still cringe with any small reminder of that day. From mother to daughter to granddaughter, our memories bind us, and the act of imparting them creates a bond between generations. It was the memory of my mother’s difficult pregnancy in which she almost lost me that helped me to endure three miscarriages as I struggled to bring my own baby into the world. And, it is the memory of my mother’s strength and endurance during my own childhood that fuels my most difficult days as a parent.
Memories of shopping trips with my mom come back to me as she and my daughter make their own. The three of us continue to thrive, to endure, and to love. And, we do it with borrowed memories.
Deborah Staunton holds a B.S. in early childhood education, a B.A. in theatre arts, and postgraduate credits in creative writing. Her work has appeared in Stage Directions, The Sondheim Review, Writers’ Journal, Amateur Stage, and Sheepshead Review. She has written child development materials for Harcourt Learning Direct and her essay “Promises Kept” won first place for memoir in the Fiction Writer’s Journey annual writing contest.
“Come sit with me BB,” she says. We tried many names, “bonus mom,” “b-mom,” “other mom,” but only “BB” (short for Bahar) made me, a member of the auntie-squad, feel comfortable. So it stuck.
I sit with her.
She is restless.
Because of my own lack of confidence in this new role, I typically take his children’s other-than-perfect behavior personally. We sit on the first step of the carpeted staircase and start doing math homework together. When her younger sister asks me a question, she loses her cool. “Car-e-leigh!” she complains. The added “e” after the “r” indicates frustration.
We move to a quieter space.
When I try to answer her question, she responds, “I don’t get what you are saying,” followed by “No! That’s not how you do it!” She tests my patience when she throws her homework on the floor. I don’t pick up the sheets of paper strewn about the sofa, but I don’t leave either. We finish math. She hands me a writing sample to check. As I’m reviewing it, her father asks her to get ready for dance class. She’s not a fan of activity, yet the tantrum she throws is too extreme for her otherwise peaceful temperament. She trudges to her room in tears.
I have low tolerance for excessive whining or lack of respect for parents and usually ignore it until the child is ready to have a reasonable conversation. Somehow today I’m different. Today is not about self-assumed inadequacies. My feet walk me up the stairs to her room.
I hold her.
It’s the day their mother left for her honeymoon. It’s the week after the wedding. That’s enough to make anyone uneasy, much less a nine-year-old.
She’s not one to share feelings.
Today, she doesn’t have to.
“Stay with me BB.”
Bahar Anooshahr is an Iranian-American writer and speaker who left a career in oral and maxillofacial surgery to follow her passion of storytelling. Her works have been featured in The Austin Chronicle, Creative Nonfiction, Whole Life Times Magazine, and the anthology In The Night Count the Stars among others. She was a keynote speaker in Chicago for Failure: Lab—an international movement showcasing the untold stories of failure behind success.