Caroline Becker – Secret Mother

121Caroline Becker works in the mental health field, specializing in addictions treatment.  She writes poetry, essay, memoir and fiction.  She holds particular interest in the nature of human relationships, how they shape our lives, and how truth may become a transforming experience that allows for a more authentic, meaningful and better understood life.  She has published in The Cutting Edge and in The Paradise Review.

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SECRET MOTHER

I am not my mother.
She does not want her life for me.
She believes I take choices that she could not.  And she is right.

In December we say good-bye, before I drive out of six inch snow,
away from the dismal gray-white of our small town, toward western heat.
When I leave we cry, for time spent together; for time that is lost .

Eighteen months later, mother rings on a Sunday evening, announcing she is
searching plane fares. It is time for her to visit Arizona, time for her to visit me.
Oh…you are coming.  Okay, sure, that’s great.  When?
In a month she arrives, packing hiking boots, hoping to hear a coyote howl.

On Saturday we walk to Basha’s grocery, breathing dry desert air
in a valley hemmed by mountains and topped in constant blue.
For dinner we plate angel hair tossed in garlic and basil and olive oil.

Sitting at my thin glass dining table mother says she is proud of me
and the words touch my quick, traveling from her mouth to my gut
like a secret I didn’t know I was waiting for, that changes everything
I thought I knew about myself.  About her.  About freedom and chance.

She fled her young life at the age of eighteen, trading Kansas for Brooklyn.
Living with girlfriends during The War.  A married woman working, falling in love,
bearing her first child with a man she met in New York.  Who was he?

Unlocked photographs show a secret version of mother, the whole of her lit,
from the inside.  Her face and body draped in the possibility of newness,
arms stretching behind her head, propelling her up, toward the clouds.

The end of the war brought the birth of her second child, brought her husband home.
Her divorce denied, her lover’s son adopted by my father.  Back to Kansas,
first to family and then to the husband who laid claim to her. Take up your life.

They survived fifteen years between the river and the railroad tracks, in a
decaying four room house, bordered by a dirt yard and decorated with
front porch litter: bundled newspapers, bikes and scooters, old living room
armchairs, worn from use, without proper indoor homes of their own.

Their peeling paint and crumbling front steps, silent evidence
of what was undone between them so many years before.
A secret hidden by nine, thin limbed children, in a hardscrabble life,
where even the dog looks gaunt against overgrown patches of weeds.

The marriage my parents made launched a forty-five year catch of her
in a world with few choices.  Their secrets buried in more than half a century.

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