Sunday, October 02, 2005

Ode to (or for) Mom

Here's something that's been rattling around in the back of my mind for a long time. I've been feeling closer to my folks lately, even though I do a lousy job of keeping in touch with Dad and Mom passed on years ago. But somehow it seems right to try to carry on or complete some work that belongs to one's parents. I've been following in my father's footsteps in puppetry, and thinking about cooking and bread making to honor Mom. The following, I hope, explains itself. It's still a work in progress.

The Ballad of the Built-in Fingernail

While my mother always believed she could write
Her poetic musings took over at night.
With family in bed and the house still chaotic
She'd spin the mundane into something exotic.

But glasses of Coke mixed with old Heaven Hill
Doused the fire of her muse and gave it a chill,
And bright seeds of poetic inspiration
Bloomed into dark flowers of accusation.

Mom wasn’t content with how her life turned out.
She drank to find peace and her faith turned to doubt.
But still she had dreams and a few great ideas
Of how to make hay in the poetry biz.

She’d write an homage to Erma Bombeck:
An author best known for describing the wreck
That comes when a maid turns into wife and mom,
She turned foibles to fables with pen and aplomb.

While now we bow down to our domestic divas
Bombeck’s works were odes to a domestic Shiva.
Her observations were both funny and frank.
(And grass still grows greener o're the septic tank.)

My mother and thousands of others found hope
To know that it really was common to cope
With clutter and chaos and lackluster kids
And husbands accustomed to life on the skids.

Now our house would get cleaned for special occasions
And all would be ordered to our battle stations
When Grandmother came to survey the domain.
We’d shuffle the clutter and cover the stains.

And during one flurry of hectic housekeeping
Came the inspiration that Mom had been seeking.
“I wonder,” thought Mom, “why no mop, sponge or broom
Can finish the cleaning required of a room?

“Why no soap solution can lessen the toil
Of cleaning the final small, dark clumps of soil.
A vacuum can suck up the bulk of debris,
Dead bugs and dust bunnies that long to run free.

“But to whack that last lonely sticky detail
The weapon of choice is a good fingernail.”
“Aha,” said my Mom, “Here’s a message to share.
With housewives and cleaning girls everywhere.

“You’ve heard the commercials that tell you what’s new
To make your house perfect. Well tell them, ‘Scrub you.’
"You’re more than the sum of your cleaning supplies
And the greatest tool lies right before your eyes.

Someday an inventor will set us all free,
We’ll never more grovel upon bended knee
The greatest companion to woman and pail
Will be the Mop with the Built-in Fingernail!"

As epiphanies go, this wasn’t as hot
As a bathtub “Eureka,” or Einstein’s big thought
But Mom warmed her muse and she sat down to write
And writing continued late into the night.

I never did see the poem that resulted
But friends that she showed and the family consulted
Agreed that the poem was a quite worthy text
That rivaled the writings of Erma Bombeck.

“Submit it’” they’d urge. “It deserves to be seen
in Reader’s Digest or Redbook Magazine.”
But it's one thing to open your heart to your peers,
Another to welcome professional jeers.

As far as I know now the poem is still bound
In some yellow pad, nowhere to be found.
But in garret or attic it bears her initial
And glows like a light, hidden under a bushel.

Now Mom has passed on and left so much unspoken
That I collect each of her words as a token.
I cherish the wisdom she freely imparted
Much more near the finish than when I first started.

For life takes a turn when you get near the end,
And looking both ways as you head ‘round the bend.
Beginning and end shine with bright clarity
Revealing how simple life’s answers can be.

How time washes off all the grime of the past
Exposing the memories destined to last.
How things that seemed small in the daily debris
Can glow like the stars in God's eternity

So now it is my chance to say what I see
To my son and daughters who come behind me.
And something as handy as Mom’s cleaning tip
Is precious, indeed, to provide for the trip.

So here is Mom's motto for my kids to keep
Even when their dreams wind up in a heap:
Sure life is a mess, but don’t sweat the details.
As long as you’ve got your built-in fingernail.

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