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Mother, September 26, 1991
by Fred Bassett
She sits alone in her big chair,
admiring the cut flowers by the window.
It's the birthday of her first-born son
who had driven three hours
to celebrate it with gifts for her
and lunch at Red Lobster.
The mother should be the focus
of one's birthday, he would tell her.
Drifting across the years, she recalls
the morning her water broke.
How young and innocent she was.
How long she labored to birth him
in that old farm house back in Alabama.
She had never once spoken
of her birthing travails, although
her sister-in-law had told him about them.
She picks up the new teddy bear,
the first she could call her own,
and holding it like a baby,
she takes note of her old hands—
nourishing hands that reared ten children
but never cuddled Rhoda Jane,
the daughter mangled by forceps.
Yet, her world kept turning,
shadowed with both joy and sorrow.
The old family clock strikes six.
She's worried that her son hasn't called
to tell her he's back home with his family.
She turns to the opposite wall
where the late sun, in fair weather,
always works some shifting spell.
And there are the shadows of her flowers.