Southern Legitimacy Statement: I left Virginia more than 30 years ago to settle eventually in Seattle: “As far away from us as you can get!” my folks would say. Though I’m happily settled in the Pacific Northwest, I reminisce about humid summer days at the Chesapeake Bay where my parents lived for much of their 57-year marriage.
Requiescat for Rose Mary
Yellow roses appeared
as if by miracle
on your doorstep
that special day
You had no street address
just a P.O. Box.
Only the locals recognized
the shingles of names
dangling from that roadside post of driftwood
marking the turn to your house
down the lane
on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.
I hoped you’d remember
these were your favorite blooms.
Yellow. The color for joy, warmth, optimism.
Rose, your given name.
I didn’t know
it was your last Mother’s Day.
The other day I found your portrait
tucked into the back of a forgotten sketch pad.
You gazed at me, soft and steady,
from the faded darkroom print.
“Portrait” I had signed in cursive on the back.
“College Class” you had written underneath.
I was 19, you were 39.
Your life was so different from mine.
Young mother to my brother and me
wife of 57 years to my father.
We parted early in our world views,
me the rebellious teen
you the faithful follower to your Lord.
You the lifelong homemaker,
me eager to make my mark in a different life.
I kept moving
“as far as you could” they’d say,
from East Coast to West.
You told me you were proud of me,
My career, my marriage, my mothering of two sons.
In your abandoned art studio we found pots of paints
to color rocks collected in your walks.
Baskets overflowing with seashells,
there and all over the house.
Crusty conchs, palm smooth clams,
itty bitty shapes of indiscernible species.
Exploring this shoreline or that
you delighted with each find,
imagining the prospect of an artful creation to come.
In my own beach walks I bring home
a small shell
as a memory of the day.
In each I also catch a tiny glimpse of you
walking along the shore,
marveling at a great blue heron,
lifting your face to embrace the sun.
We returned your body to the earth
in a casket under the oak tree just like you asked.
But I think your soul lies in the Bay
swimming with the blue crabs
swaying with the eel grass
swooning at the pelicans flying overhead.