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Memories of Mom: 19-year-old Bride

On Easter, I tend to think a lot about birth and rebirth. The beauty and truth of the resurrection of Jesus is the primary reason why I continue to identify as a Catholic. A few months ago, I wrote a poem from the perspective of my mother, imaging what she was thinking the night before her wedding. Our “dark family secret is that she was pregnant with me when she married my father. The legend goes that my grandfather tried to talk her out of it, up to the Church. But married my father, she did. And 3 years later, she gave birth to Liam. She said that had the marriage worked out, she probably would have had a bigger family. God knows she had enough love and infused Liam and I with it every day of our lives. Happy Easter. – Christian

Nineteen-Year-Old Bride

Peggy at her Wedding
Peggy on her wedding day (February 1973)

For my mother, 1953 – 2010

Your aunt “Babes” zips

the back of my wedding dress,

a very simple, light pink, cotton.

(Your grandmother wouldn’t allow white

with you in my belly. )

She is 16 and ecstatic

about going to my wedding.

My younger brother, Tom,

is skulking in the doorway.

Later, when I pretend to catch him peeking,

he tells me I’m the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen.

Your other aunt, Helen

– you’ll get to know all eight of my siblings soon –

places a crown of red roses on top of my long, brown hair.

They match the small, fake roses, embroidered

along the top of “hippie” dress’ bust.

I hear your grandfather pacing downstairs,

exhausted after spending all night

trying to talk me out of this.

He mumbles, “Jesus Chris, Dottie

(your grandmother!)

there has to be another way

then her marrying this skell.”

There isn’t.

I want you.

And though I only have

a short time with you,

and your brother –

Shhh, your father doesn’t know –

I will be a great mother.

I will be the mother,

all your friends wish was theirs.

Though we will never have much,

I will never let you feel poor.

You will never be hungry.

We will have such fun!

In the second-hand pool

in my parents’ back yard,

you will learn to swim before you walk.

You will be angry at me for exactly seven minutes

after everyone yells, “Surprise!”

at your tenth birthday party.

You will always have a home.

You will always

be encircled by my love.

I will work very hard.

I will make you love reading,

and turnips, and puppies.

I will make you both strong.

I will make sure you are both loved.

I will finish the job.

I will prepare you both,

for life without me.

You will have such funny, warm and loving stories –

pu pu platters at the Chinese restaurant,

running from the Roman Candle

your crazy Godmother

aimed in the wrong direction,

exploring the fallen tree

after Hurricane Gloria batters Brooklyn,

summers at the Surf Club –

to tell when I’m gone.

Isn’t that what every mother wants?

Walking down the aisle

toward your father,

I can feel you growing in me

like a Commandment,

and though Granpda whispers

that I can still call it off,

I embrace the next 36 years,

which will be hard,

like a privilege, like God’s own truth.

See you soon. Love, Mom.


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